Glossary of CRT-Related Terms

This glossary is meant to be a reference guide to help citizens evaluate materials and assess whether the activist practice of CRT is in effect.

* This is an evolving document that may be subject to additions, revisions, and technical corrections based on feedback.

  1. Introduction

It is important to define the purpose and capabilities of this document before discussing the meaning of different terms used in the CRT debate.   

Community awareness of Critical Race Theory (CRT), and of the fact that it is a discipline created by and for left-wing political activists that does not belong in schools, has skyrocketed in recent months. Though more parents have a working understanding of what CRT is, CRT as it manifests itself in schools, teacher trainings, curricula, etc., is not always easy to spot, mainly because it rarely identifies itself readily as “critical race theory.”

Critical Theory (CT), Critical Social Justice (CSJ), and Critical Race Theory at first glance look like nothing more than the study of things from a certain perspective. Many assume such theorizing only takes place in the upper echelons of academia. Indeed, many CRT proponents will argue that CRT is not in K-12, because it is something that is only studied in law school. This is misleading because Critical Social Justice, and related sub-fields like CRT, use a critical pedagogy that demands praxis of those theories—political activism in the name of the politics the theory teaches. However, this praxis is rarely called “Critical Race Theory” by name. A complex web of myriad associated concepts and ideas are taught to weave together a two-track process: first, to convince students, parents, and teachers of many problems that simply are not so, and second, to push social changes that must be advanced in society to correct those perceived problems. This document shows how all of these ideas are related, which makes CRT easier to spot.

This guide is meant to help concerned citizens comb through curricula, public records communications, teacher trainings, etc., to establish more quickly whether or not any of these terms appear in the relevant context. Some of these terms can appear in ways that are completely acceptable, and even potentially in ways that should be encouraged. In other words, some of these terms have a typical, everyday life meaning that is unobjectionable, but often CRT redefines them so that they no longer mean the same thing. Put another way: some of these terms are everyday words that CRT redefines in order to use familiar language as a mask for fringe ideas. Some of these terms may seem unrelated to CRT, but they are still being used to advance left-wing ideas while others will almost always be presented in ways that are easy to establish as related to CRT. This document indicates whether terms are straight from CRT, are tangentially related to CSJ, or are unrelated in specific contexts. This glossary does not exhaustively provide all alternative contexts, just many of the most common instances. While searching materials for CRT, one should ensure that the context of the associated terms is related to CRT, or at least to other concepts of cultural Marxism. 

This glossary is meant to be a reference guide, something to help citizens evaluate materials and assess whether the praxis (activist practice) of CRT is in effect.

The next section defines a few introductory concepts that help explain the rest of the document.

  1. Encompassing Definitions

Critical Social Justice: Sometimes called “wokeness,” Critical Social Justice (CSJ) is, in fact, an ideology that aggressively pursues the social, cultural, institutional, and political installation and enforcement of a very specific and radical understanding of social justice derived from various “Critical Theories.” The view from Critical Social Justice:

  1. Sees people in terms of their social group membership (black, white, gay, etc.), 
  2. Examines the relationship of those social groups to societal power and privilege, and 
  3. Looks for the ways those intersect in a “matrix” of domination, oppression, and marginalization that promotes the interests of the dominant while excluding or harming everyone else. 

Critical Social Justice is entirely focused on systemic power dynamics that it theorizes proceed according to factors relevant to group identity and sometimes identifies itself as being interested in “group rights” instead of individual rights. Its goal is to identify, expose, disrupt, dismantle, subvert, and overthrow those dynamics in a radical revolutionary process that seeks to remake “the system” itself in the name of its ideology. In more direct terms, CSJ advocates want a social and political revolution.

Critical Race Theory: A social theory that first gained traction in law schools during the 1980s, Critical Race Theory (CRT) takes the view that racism is baked into every aspect of American life. CRT teaches that every social structure (including churches, businesses, and family units) contains elements of racism, and that most, if not all, white Americans are racist. CRT further states that this racism is permanent and that it is, for all practical purposes, impossible to get rid of. Additionally, CRT claims that such things as merit, standards, testing, grading, and objectivity are skewed to make white people and white culture the standard by which all others are judged. In other words, CRT says that society defines these apparently neutral concepts in ways that elevate whiteness above all other races. CRT theorizes that racism is at the center of every area of American life and is operating subtly in every social interaction. According to CRT, almost nothing in America is free from racism.

Critical Pedagogy: A left-wing theory of education that claims all education is political and that the central role of education is to inculcate and indoctrinate children into political ideology. Practitioners do not say it quite that bluntly, but Critical Pedagogy absolutely says that the role of the teacher is, and should be, to help children develop a particular political understanding of the world. Developed by Paulo Freire in the 1980s, Critical Pedagogy is also, by its own admission, rooted in neo-Marxism.

Praxis: The transformation of subjectivity through the process of human action or labor upon an object. Simply put: practice, as distinguished from theory, which is to “do” or “act” upon something. CRT is a theory and the praxis of CRT is activism that seeks to spread the ideas of CRT. This activism is what generally appears in schools.

Ontological: Showing the relations between the concepts and categories in a subject area or domain.

  1. Glossary of CRT-related terms

Abolitionist Teaching: Proponents of this method claim that this is the practice of pursuing educational freedom for all students, eschewing smaller reform in favor of total transformation of the student into an activist so that the student then goes and transforms society as a whole. In reality, this practice is connected to Critical Theory, Critical Pedagogy, and intersectional feminism. It describes itself as pursuing joy, direct action, and abolition. Bettina L. Love, who coined the term in her 2019 work, We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom, defines abolitionist teaching as “teaching with the goal of intersectional social justice for equitable classrooms that love and affirm Black and brown children.”

Anti-Bias Training: An approach to education, and adult-focused training, that proponents claim uses values-based principles and methodology in support of respecting and embracing differences and acting against bias and unfairness. Typically, anti-bias training accepts the doctrine of implicit bias and sees bias as systemic and baked into the fabric of liberalism itself. As such, anti-bias training often teaches people to “see” bias in things that would otherwise seem neutral and objective when viewed using Enlightenment-era reasoning. Anti-bias training often teaches people to look for and oppose bias in inappropriate ways defined through the Critical Social Justice lens. It is increasingly less likely that anti-bias trainings focus on teaching a distinct version of how to commit to challenging prejudice, stereotyping, and forms of discrimination without an infusion of Critical Social Justice ideas.

Anti-blackness: The name for the specific kind of racial prejudice directed toward black people. This can describe real prejudice as well as nonexistent but perceived prejudice, especially when seen through the same lens that anti-bias training uses when influenced by Critical Social Justice.

Anti-racism: The idea that society, in every aspect, is racist, and yet this concept prescribes sweeping new forms of racial discrimination as a means of addressing racism in society. If the previous sentence reads awkwardly, then you read it correctly. The purpose of anti-racism is to advance forms of racial and sexual discrimination if it is for the purposes of achieving equity for the percieved oppressed groups in our society. Anti-racism, as it is commonly used, almost always accepts the main tenets of Critical Race Theory and Critical Social Justice. 

  • [Example: Ibram X. Kendi and Robin DiAngelo are engaged in “anti-racism.”] 
  • [Example: “The defining question is whether the discrimination is creating equity or inequity. If discrimination is creating equity, then it is antiracist. If discrimination is creating inequity, then it is racist. . . . The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.” (Page 19, How to Be an Anti-racist)
  • [Example: https://www.schoolcounselor.org/Publications-Research/Publications/Free-ASCA-Resources/Anti-Racism-Resources]

Centering: To place one particular group or set of interests at the “center” of the discourse. In every conversation, debate, or discourse there is a set of concepts, ideas, and interests deemed relevant and “central.” When discussing a given matter, stating that a particular idea, concern, interest, or concept is relevant or important is to “center” that thing in the discourse. This is usually seen as a negative, especially when “whiteness” is seen as being “centered,” because some argue that the act takes attention away from the experiences of others. This argument is often used to sidestep debate of a topic by categorically dismissing the views of the perceived dominant group. That categorical dismissal creates a dynamic where the opinions and perspectives of the “dominant” group are labeled as either inappropriate or morally inferior, often simply due to the color of one’s skin, although it is also often used to shut down the opinions of a group based on sex.

Colorism: Prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group. Colorism is related to, but slightly different than, racism. Racism is against a racial group, where colorism views skin color as a spectrum and is concerned with prejudice against people because of their specific skin tone. The term is usually used in contexts where a person who is not white expresses some view that is seen to “privilege” a lighter-skinned person of color over a darker-skinned person of color.

  • [Example: If a black man says he is more attracted to a brown Muslim woman than he is to a black African this might be called colorism. While a brown Muslim woman is not white, her skin is lighter than that of a black African. The black man’s attraction would be seen as privileging the lighter skin tone and being prejudiced against the darker skin tone.]

Conscious Bias: Attitudes about a particular group that people themselves are consciously aware of, even if those attitudes are outwardly invisible or difficult to detect by others. Identifying whether the claim of bias is actual bias or if it is manufactured bias through the lens of Critical Social Justice or Critical Race Theory is key to recognizing pernicious forms of this concept. Conscious Bias is an example of a concept that can be important and valid but can also be used for ideological reasons to unfairly and dishonestly attack those who have valid disagreements.

  • [Example: Most obvious cases of racism and prejudice fall into this category. For instance, a teacher who assumes that a student is smarter because that student is white or Asian, and therefore calls on that student when seeking classroom participation regarding more difficult concepts, would be engaging in conscious bias.]

Culturally Responsive Teaching: A pedagogy whose advocates argue pushes the importance of including students’ cultural references in all aspects of learning because most current instruction is built around European cultural values. Teaching this way includes not just being aware of and respectful toward language differences, food preferences during lunch hour, music preferences in music class, and fashion that a student might wear but rather every aspect of the classroom experience. This means that even the standards that a student is judged by must be coherent with their culture. This often leads to wedges being driven between students based on various identities, attacking the idea of teaching children to unite within a shared American culture and identity from which common ground and unity can grow.

  • [Example: Culturally responsive teaching might say that expecting a person from an “oral tradition” culture to read and write as well as a person from typical American culture might be biased. Culturally responsive teaching would grade this student against their culture and not an absolute standard.]
  • [Example: In a presentation called “Developing Successful Protocols for Collaborative Groups,” the Paulding County, Georgia, School District’s Social Emotional Learning (SEL) teacher on assignment, while recognizing American culture is rooted in individualism, justified adding a collectivism component to Paulding classrooms. He said some students in a classroom come from a culture which leans toward collectivism. This approach is part of culturally responsive teaching. (min 5:20) https://www.paulding.k12.ga.us/cms/lib/GA01903603/Centricity/Domain/202/Collaborative%20Groups_Norms.mp4]

De-centering: De-centering is changing the focus of the debate. That is, de-centering is not so much about changing the terms on which the debate is had but changing whose concerns get to be central to the debate. This is the opposite of centering.

  • [Example: With regard to CRT, de-centering is desired because in any particular discussion it recognizes “privilege” and places the “lived experiences” of others at the forefront of the discussion.] 

Critical ethnic studies: A discipline that analyzes colonial and racial projects that attempt to govern the relationship between people and land. The central focus is asking how the histories of colonialism and conquest, racial chattel slavery, white supremacist patriarchies, and heteronormativities affect society. This framework is usually looked at through the lens of Critical Social Justice and proponents claim that all the problems in society, and any inequality found in society, are the result of colonialism, racism, patriarchy, and “heteronormativity” (their name for the view that everyone is expected to be straight). Critical ethnic studies theorists often claim Western society is run by “whiteness” and as such they try to look at everything through the lens of other ethnic groups, so long as those ethnic groups act according to the “woke” version of that ethnic perspective.

Critical Pedagogy: Critical Pedagogy sees education as a being entirely political. Critical Pedagogy argues that the role of a teacher is to teach students to be radical activists and to teach them to view the world through the perspective of Critical Social Justice, which necessitates the infusion of social justice politics into every area of education. Practitioners believe that the entire classroom experience should be geared toward inculcating the ideology of “wokeness” into the students.

Critical Self-Awareness/ Self-Reflection: Critical Self-Reflection is the act of becoming aware of one’s presuppositions and challenging established patterns of thinking. However, this is done entirely in terms of challenging any thoughts or beliefs not sufficiently in line with Critical Social Justice. It is to observe the conditionings that shape beliefs, thoughts, and actions. Critical Self Awareness is to be critically aware of one’s own self—one’s actions, thoughts, and emotions in terms of Critical Social Justice. Typically, this involves learning to see how one, through actions and thoughts, contributes to patriarchy, white supremacy, homophobia, transphobia, and various other forms of systemic oppression.

  • [Example: Critical Self-Awareness might involve constantly reflecting on all the ways of thinking one might have that anyone anywhere could possibly consider racist.] 

Cultural Appropriation/Misappropriation: Proponents of this concept will argue that this is unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one culture by members of another culture that is more dominant in society. The idea is that all cultural practices, including music, language, games, clothing, food, and others are property of the culture which produced them; anyone from a more powerful culture who uses cultural practices from another culture and becomes popular, or makes money, is generally seen to be stealing another group’s culture. Though there may be egregious examples that can often border on racist or prejudicial, this concept is often applied to the most innocuous displays of fashion, musical preference, hairstyle, etc. 

  • [Example: A white person who writes a book about noodles and dumplings could be accused of cultural appropriation.]  

Cultural Awareness/Competence/Proficiency: These three terms are a related set of ideas. The lines between these terms, and how they are used, are not always clear. However, these terms cluster around the sensitivity to the similarities and differences that exist between two different cultures and the use of this sensitivity in effective communication with members of another cultural group. Special attention is given to “power relations” to highlight which group is seen to be more powerful. The idea is to make sure the more powerful culture is deferential to the less powerful culture. Central to these concepts is having an awareness of one’s own cultural identity and specific views about differences from other identities and the ability to learn and build on the varying cultural and community norms of others. It is the ability to understand the within-group differences that make each student unique while celebrating the between-group variations. Again, the emphasis here is on which group is more powerful, which group is seen to be oppressing other groups, and any historical oppression between groups. Also, this way of thinking tends to assume that universal standards are expressions of cultural powers. For example, typical high-school grading would be thought of as setting up a “white” standard because giving people grades would only measure their ability to meet the white standard.

*There is a version of Cultural Awareness/Competence/Proficiency that is not “woke” and only seeks to ensure cultural differences are taken into account so no one is left out. The Critical Social Justice version is different because it requires people to “stick to their culture” and “stay in their lane.” The key difference is that in the Critical Social Justice version of this concept the focus is on making sure everyone is hyper-aware of their race. The Enlightenment-era way of thinking about this concept seeks to minimize the focus on race while seeking ways to bridge people towards unity, despite otherwise identified cultural boundaries.

Cultural Relevance: Teaching that uses the cultural knowledge, prior experiences, frames of reference, and performance styles of ethnically diverse students to make learning more relevant and effective. However, this way of thinking often assumes that everyone will be confined to the stereotypes of their perceived culture. It often appears to use such forms of stereotyping when deciding what is culturally relevant to a given student.

There is an acceptable way to use this term, and that is when the goal is to use cultural references that students are familiar with. That is, making sure all the examples and illustrations used in class are understood by everyone (i.e. not using farm analogies with city kids or not using aphorisms that students are unfamiliar with).

  • [Example: Using examples from a student’s perceived cultural background in class would be an attempt to be culturally relevant.] 

Cultural Responsiveness: This concept argues for the acknowledgement of the presence of culturally diverse students and the need for these students to find relevant connections among themselves, the subject matter, tasks, and their teachers. Proponents would argue that being culturally responsive is not limited to acknowledging ethnic holidays, including popular culture in the curriculum, or adopting colloquial speech. Being culturally responsive and culturally relevant requires cultural competency. This competency involves having an awareness of one’s own cultural identity and views about differences coupled with the ability to learn and build on the varying cultural and community norms of students and their families. This is usually influenced by how Critical Social Justice understands cultural interaction and special attention is paid to perceived differences in cultural power. 

Diversity Training: From the Critical Social Justice perspective, this teaches people how to think of everything through the lens of systemic oppression and to see people first and foremost as avatars of their racial or cultural group. This type of diversity training seeks to encourage people to adopt the worldview of Critical Social Justice and to become activists for Critical Social Justice. This is, however, another example of a term that can mean two things. As a potentially positive and beneficial framework, diversity training would be geared toward teaching people how to be sensitive to the ways people can be different and interact differently. However, when CRT-style diversity training is implemented it almost always attempts to get people to see everything through the lens of race and to become activists for CRT.

  • [Example: Often, diversity training teaches people to see race first and then brings in intersectionality exercises as a way to see and think about diversity. See: “Intersectionality” later in this document to understand how diversity training is often steered towards Critical Social Justice]

Dominant Discourses: At any particular time, the “dominant discourse” is that which socially conditions people and socializes them into a particular way of thinking. The “dominant discourse” is also seen as the way in which certain ideas become powerful and elevate certain ideologies to become dominant in society. In practice, the idea contained in that discourse shapes the way a conversation or debate can go in a way that benefits the ideology that is embedded in the dominant discourse.

  • [Example: Even though the political Left in the United States has had significant influence over the direction of K-12 education, they would claim that white supremacist assumptions are part of the dominant discourse in society. The “woke” Left would then argue that the applied praxis of CRT, and other forms of Critical Social Justice, need to be used for slowly building up a consensus behind a new dominant discourse in society.] 

Educational Justice: A curriculum or program in which schools and communities work to provide equitable distribution of qualified teachers who can provide quality instruction, equitable access to educational resources, advanced courses, and a focus on restorative justice. However, the way “justice” is defined in this paradigm is through the lens of Critical Social Justice and this means the focus will be on ensuring equal outcomes. All solutions offered will be with an eye toward dealing with systemic oppression as Critical Social justice would define it. Educational Justice is seen as a means to end perceived educational inequity.

  • [Example: Fewer slots in advanced placement courses and classrooms may be made available to white or Asian students because they are seen as more privileged in a dynamic with perceived overlapping systems of oppression at play. This is seen as dismantling systemic oppression and creating equity in educational outcomes. Students are categorized by their skin color and that single, immutable trait is used to decide whether their hard work will be recognized.]

Equitable: According to a dictionary: being fair and impartial. Critical Social Justice proponents manipulate the concept of “equitable” as it relates to outcomes. They promote equal outcomes between groups, in which doing things equitably is to do them with an eye toward ensuring “equity,” which means ensuring equality of outcome. This worldview necessitates overt discrimination against all kinds of groups and categories of people, most often based on race.

Equity: Commonly understood to mean fairness or justice, the term is now used by left-wing activists to mean something much more specific: equality of outcomes between different racial groups and other minority groups, including through an endless process of identifying more and more minority groups via deconstruction. See: “Identity Deconstruction.” In order to “achieve” equity, the perceived barriers to equity must be removed. This requires formal efforts to review policies, procedures, practices, and systems to identify changes that need to be made. “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion,” “Anti-bias,” and “Anti-racist” trainings often serve as ways activists promote equity. Many school districts openly advocate for these processes as part of their long-term district “equity plan.”

Equity Gap: A specific term used when talking about “equity” that refers to a deficit that can be solved using “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” (DEI) programs, training, redistribution of resources, hiring practices, etc. There are many different ways of wording this concept, so “equity gap” is not the only way activists will try to convey this concept. To determine whether a discussion of equity gaps is related to CSJ and/or CRT, one must look at the context of the discussion. 

  • [Example: “The reauthorization of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) gives greater responsibility to states and districts to advance equity at the local level. Equity is authorized in Title I, Part A and supported by all Federal Programs. […] The work to increase equitable opportunities for students is the responsibility of the entire district. In order to resolve the achievement gap or [success gap], the focus on educational equality, treating all students the same, must be replaced with efforts that advance educational equity, ensuring all students have the resources they need so they graduate prepared for success after high school.” (slide 11) https://www.gadoe.org/School-Improvement/Federal-Programs/Documents/Title%20I,%20Part%20A/PQ/Final%20PQ%20and%20Equity%20February%2019.%202021.pdf]

Hegemony: A group that has hegemony sets the cultural and social agenda, has the most cultural power, and gets to embed their ideas, goals, values, and norms into the systems, methods, and institutions of culture and knowledge production.

  • [Example: In China, Chinese culture would be said to be hegemonic. In America, Critical Social Justice says that “whiteness” is hegemonic.] 

Identity Deconstruction: To deconstruct one’s identity is to closely examine all the parts of one’s own view of oneself and to see how society has caused one to internalize particular ideas about oneself and to identify in a particular way. In this view, every aspect of one’s identity is arbitrary and can be changed at any time and in any way according to the whims of the person in question. Deconstruction seeks to make the cultural assumptions about how a person sees themselves obvious so that people can either accept or reject them. It also seeks to problematize any aspect of identity which is related to “whiteness” as Critical Social Justice sees it. As identity is further and further deconstructed, a never-ending combination of unique minority groups is then created and encouraged to wage a never-ending assault on the perceived oppressor class in society, which Critical Social Justice most often identifies as “whiteness.” In the more nefarious versions of this process, identity groups associated with the perceived oppressor class (e.g., white, male, able-bodied, and educated) are labeled negatively. Identity groups associated with the perceived oppressed class are labeled positively for no other reason than that they are associated with the perceived oppressed class. 

Unconscious/Implicit/Explicit Bias: An inclination or preference either for or against an individual or group that interferes with impartial judgment. All forms of bias can be both explicit (aware, voluntary, and intentional) and implicit (unaware, involuntary, and unintentional), though explicit biases are more overt expressions of prejudice or hate. All manifestations of bias and discrimination can be both personal (an individual act of bias, meanness, or exclusion) or institutional (supported and sanctioned by power and authority that confers privilege on members of a dominant group while disadvantaging members of other groups). Through the lens of Critical Social Justice, many things get labeled as bias which are not really instances of bias.

Inclusivity Education: Traditionally, a way of teaching all children in the same classrooms, in the same schools. That meant real learning opportunities for groups who were traditionally excluded–not only children with disabilities but speakers of minority languages too. However, through the Critical Social Justice lens, inclusivity education refers to making sure that nothing is said or done that might offend someone. Typically, this involves claiming that any idea at odds with Critical Social Justice is non-inclusive and therefore not allowed.

  • [Example: Arguing for color-blindness is seen to be non-inclusive because color-blindness is seeing people as individuals rather than seeing them as a part of their race and affirming their racial identity.] 

Institutional Bias: Practices, scripts, or procedures that work systematically to give advantage to certain groups or agendas over others. Institutionalized bias is built into the fabric of institutions. In Critical Social Justice, such things as “hiring the best person” or “merit-based evaluation” are thought to be institutionally biased on the grounds that the standard of what constitutes best, or what counts as “merit,” is rigged to give straight, white males an advantage.

  • [Example: Hiring practices are thought to be institutionally biased if they do not lead to equal hiring outcomes among groups.] 

Institutional Oppression: This refers to the mistreatment of people within a social identity group, supported and enforced by institutions, solely based on the person’s membership in the social identity group. When used in CRT, oppression is usually said to be any place where there are any unequal outcomes at all. 

  • [Example: Laws mandating racially discriminatory hiring practices are an example of actual institutional oppression] 
  • [Example: The claim that Hispanic children cannot succeed in society because schools are systemically racist against Hispanics is likely a scapegoat claim that has no basis in reality, but it allows CRT proponents to claim that institutional oppression is present.]

Internalized Racism: If, within a society that is called systemically racist, there is a racial group, or individuals within that racial group, who are oppressed but who still support the supremacy and dominance of the groups oppressing them, that can be referred to as “internalized racism.” The group’s willingness to maintain or participate in the set of attitudes, behaviors, social structures, and ideologies that undergird the dominating group’s power is used as evidence of this internalization. Accusations of internalized racism are often used to shut down any disagreement with Critical Social Justice efforts by those who are, in theory, part of the oppressed group.

  • [Example: If a black person votes conservative, this might be said to be because they have internalized racism. This is how Larry Elder, a black conservative in California, can be labeled the face of white supremacy.] 

Internalized White Supremacy: This is the same as internalized racism but specifically with white supremacist thoughts, ideas, and attitudes.

  • [Example: If a black person acts or speaks out in ways that Critical Social Justice advocates would claim upholds systems of white supremacy, they might claim it is because that person has internalized white supremacy.] 

Interrupting Racism: This is the act of using the methods and techniques of Critical Social Justice to intervene in a situation where it is claimed that racism is occuring. 

Intersectionality: Proponents see this as the interconnected nature of traits they consider to be social categorizations (as opposed to the immutable nature of characteristics or traits) such as race, class, ability, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage. The term was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw.

  • [Example: Being black is an identity and being female is an identity, so being a black female is an example of intersectionality because blackness and femaleness are “intersecting.”] 

Intersectional identities: Any identity that is the composite of two or more identities that are perceived as marginalized. These ever-expanding intersectional identities are the groups around which Critical Social Justice constructs its arguments against perceived prevailing systems of oppression and those identity groups that are seen as oppressors. Through this lens, individuals are seen and defined by their identities (many of which are immutable traits) and are expected to hold to the prevailing political worldview that is expected of them by the far Left. Individuality and freedom of thought are cast aside in favor of mandating the expected group worldview if such individuality and freedom of thought conflicts with the aims of Critical Social Justice.

  • [Example: “Gay Hispanic male” is an intersectional identity. “Black female” is an intersectional identity.] 

Intersectional Studies: The study of the ways that race, gender, disability, sexuality, class, age, and other social categories are mutually shaped and interrelated through forces such as colonialism, neoliberalism, geopolitics, and cultural configurations to produce shifting relations of power and oppression.

  • [Example: Studying how society functions to oppress Asian trans women would be a line of inquiry in intersectional studies.] 

Marginalized Identities: A group, or an individual identity that is perceived to be excluded, ignored, or relegated to the outer edge of a group/society/community.

  • [Example: Critical Race Theory would claim that “black woman” is a marginalized identity while “white male” is not.] 

Marginalized/Minoritized/Under-represented Communities: Communities composed of people with marginalized identities who are seen to have less opportunity than the dominant white majority. 

Microaggressions: The everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership. Critical Social Justice continuously pushes the boundaries of what might constitute a microaggression and thus a “hostile” act, often in tedious and inappropriate ways.

  • [Example: Asking someone where they are from might be a microaggression because the claim would be made that the questioner assumes that the person might be from somewhere else and are therefore an outsider.] 

Multiculturalism: The practice of acknowledging and respecting the various cultures, religions, races, ethnicities, attitudes, and opinions within an environment. Multiculturalism is often pushed as ideal, while those who want to elevate the importance of a shared identity and common culture within a given nation for the purposes of stability and unity are discounted as racist. Multiculturalism is often presented as an end in itself by Critical Social Justice proponents, who do not acknowledge any downside to having multiple cultures in a single space (for example, they would ignore or downplay the significance of language barriers).

  • [Example: The United States is a multicultural society. Multiculturalism is often elevated over the concept of a unified culture. Any approach that does not accept all forms of multiculturalism as an unalloyed good will be categorized as bigoted, discriminatory, etc. The Critical Social Justice view of multiculturalism simply takes for granted that having some shared national culture is unnecessary for societal stability.]
  • [Example: “Why have European feminists been conspicuously silent about the rise in sexual violence against women? Part of the answer, Hirsi Ali believes, is that within the feminist movement ‘the concept of women’s rights yielded to the new ideals of multiculturalism and intersectionality.’” In this instance, immigrant culture/identity was seen as more important by the political left, who then prioritized protecting it from criticism even though the outcome was negative in terms of protecting women. In the worldview of the left, defending the concept of multiculturalism took precedent to the security and wellbeing of women. https://newideal.aynrand.org/ayaan-hirsi-ali-on-migration-islam-and-women-as-prey/]

Neo-segregation: A new form of racial segregation—often called “racial affinity groups” or “racial caucuses”—with separate meetings, facilities, living quarters, and training programs for whites and racial minorities. The assumption is that whites must “do the work” to address their “internalized racial superiority” and racial minorities must be protected from invasive “whiteness.”

  • [Example: Splitting students into racial groups for the purposes of in-classroom learning] 

Oppressor vs. oppressed: A systemic social dynamic based on perceived and real differences among social groups involving ideological domination, institutional control, and the promulgation of the oppressor’s ideology, logic system, and culture to the oppressed group. This term may refer to any dynamic where one group systematically oppresses another group. The Frankfurt School and early practitioners of Critical Theory first used the classic Marxist conception of conflict through the lens of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat (an economic class dynamic of poor vs. rich). CSJ and CRT replaced that older conception of social conflict and replaced it with the newer oppressor vs. oppressed language that both allowed for classic economic class conflict debates, but also through the categorizations of race, sex, etc.

  • [Example: CRT often overtly references the dynamic of oppressor vs. oppressed. In almost any usage that you might find, it is directly related to CSJ/CRT]

Patriarchy: A social system in which men dominate, in which men are regarded as the authority within the family and society, in which power and possessions are passed on from father to son, and in which men have more power, prestige, and opportunity in society.

  • [Example: The evangelical Christian assumption that the man is the head of the household is considered to be an instance of patriarchy.] 

Privilege: Describes benefits that belong to people because they fit into a specific social group or have certain dimensions to their identity. One can have (or lack) privilege because of one’s race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, religion, wealth, and class among many other characteristics. According to CRT, privilege and the lack of privilege are how power is distributed.

Race Essentialism: A belief in an essence that defines all members of a racial category. The practice of categorizing a racial group based on an artificial social construction that imparts an “essence” for that group, homogenizing the group and removing individuality and difference. Critical Race Theory claims to be against essentialism, but in practice they treat members of racial groups as monoliths who all hold (or ought to hold) the same views.

  • [Example: Asserting that all Asians are inherently smart is essentialism.] 

Racial Healing: Racial healing is a practice that has as its goal to heal the psychological damage caused by racism and to advance racial equity.

Racialized identity: Racial identity is said to be externally imposed. If one thinks of oneself as an American, that is not a racialized identity. If one thinks of oneself as “black,” that is a racialized identity that has been formulated by society to mean something specific. Although  CRT practitioners typically argue the importance of race and identity, in this case, racialized identity is seen as a negative because it involves the imposed identity on that group by “others.” CRT proponents argue that only white people are afforded the opportunity to have non-racialized identities, which is seen as another sign of systemic oppression. Of course, this CRT argument itself is an attempt to impose a racial identity. By pointing out that someone might not have a racialized identity, CRT activists can then racialize that person’s identity. The inability of racial groups that CRT proponents label as oppressed to define their own identities is seen as more evidence of systemic racism.

Racial Justice: The systematic fair treatment of people of all races, resulting in equitable opportunities and outcomes for all. Racial justice—or racial equity—goes beyond “anti-racism.” It is not just the absence of discrimination and inequities but also the presence of deliberate systems and support to achieve and sustain racial equity through proactive and preventative measures.

  • [Example: Ibram Kendi’s proposal to have a federal anti-racism agency is a means to achieve the CRT vision of racial justice.]

Racial Prejudice: Bigotry against a person or group because of their race. CSJ and CRT advocates will often employ this argument inappropriately, when no racial prejudice has occurred. The context of the usage of this term will dictate whether it is valid or invalid. 

Representation: The method of authentically bringing traditionally excluded individuals and/or groups into processes, activities, and decision/policymaking in a way that shares power. Representation can be such things as electing people from a particular group or making sure someone from a particular identity group is among the cast of characters in a movie. In Critical Social Justice/CRT the goal is to bring in the “woke” version of whatever group is to be represented. So, electing a conservative black person is bad, but electing a “woke” black person is good.

Restorative Justice: There is a specific meaning to this term as it applies to criminal justice. As it applies to schools, according to the Manhattan Institute, “there is confusion about what [restorative justice] is and no consensus about the best way to implement it. However, proposed approaches include individual or community “conferences” in which the injured party can address the harms done; peer mediation or “peer juries” by which students resolve disputes themselves; and the use of “socio-emotional learning” techniques to encourage the healthy management of emotion.” It is also seen as the act of emphasizing individual and collective accountability for perceived social injustices in a way that undoes the harm of the wrongs in question. Restorative Justice seeks to make up for past wrongs. It is key to pay attention and monitor the appropriateness of what is being claimed as a past wrong, and whether the proposed solutions themselves are also appropriate.

Social-Emotional-Learning: Technically speaking, Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) is not a part of Critical Race Theory. It is the process of developing the self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills that are vital for school, work, and life success. People with strong social-emotional skills are better able to cope with everyday challenges and benefit academically, professionally, and socially. However, concepts of social justice and CRT are often being infused into SEL lessons and curricula because activists want to use the “social” focus of SEL to teach the CRT view of how social interactions work. As such, SEL is used to teach people how to interpret the people around them, how to think about society, and then intentionally how to behave socially the way CRT says they should. While it is possible to have SEL components included in schools in an innocuous form, the reality is that, today, most SEL programs have been perverted by Critical Social Justice advocates to do more harm than good. It is important to be aware of the fact that CRT activists, as well as some teachers, counselors, school psychologists, and vendors of SEL programs are embedding their CRT view of how society works into the “social” aspects of Social Emotional Learning.

Spirit Murdering: A metaphor for the idea that racism is more than just physical pain, racism robs people of color of their humanity and dignity and leaves personal, psychological, and spiritual injuries. It is the disregard of the humanity of people whose quality of life requires one’s regard. Disregarding someone’s humanity in that context is to murder them spiritually.

Structural Bias: Refers to the institutional patterns and practices that confer advantages to some and disadvantages to others based on identity. It is not merely the institutions themselves but the way that institutions are structured and relate to each other and society.

Systemic Racism: The normalization and legitimization of an array of dynamics–historical, cultural, institutional, and interpersonal–that routinely advantage white people while producing cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for people of color. Systemic racism encompasses the entire system of white domination, diffused and infused in all aspects of society, including its history, culture, politics, economics, and entire social fabric.

This term is sometimes used interchangeably with the term “structural racism.”

Systemic Bias: A social phenomenon based on the perceived and real differences among social groups that involves ideological domination, institutional control, and the promulgation of the oppressor’s ideology, logic system, and culture. 

Systemic Oppression: Conscious and unconscious, non-random, and organized harassment, discrimination, exploitation, prejudice, and other forms of unequal treatment that impact different groups.

Systems of Power and Oppression: When prejudice and institutional power combine to create a system that discriminates against some groups and benefits other groups. The systems here are social systems, but the definition of system is expansive and includes every social phenomenon, including institutions, language, education, healthcare, culture, infrastructure, entertainment, government, family structure, the economy, and any other widespread social phenomena. In the view of Critical Social Justice advocates, there is nothing that is not the product of interlocking social systems. Examining them is to examine them for racism, sexism, patriarchy, white supremacy, bias, bigotry, or anything else that they think leads to inequality.

White Fragility: The idea that if a white person rejects or pushes back against an accusation of racism, rather than engaging in deep introspection and self-examination, they are doing that because they are “fragile” and cannot handle the truth about their racism. The idea here is that being upset because someone labels one a racist, or said one is a bigot, then the person so-labeled just can’t handle the truth and is lashing out. This concept is often weaponized against anyone who rightly rejects false accusations of racism. “White fragility” is often used as a blunt method of stopping debate so that accusations of racism do not actually have to be proven and so that disagreement with such accusations is set up to be yet another form of racism. This is a catch-22 proposition in many cases, deliberately put in place by “woke” Left social justice activists.

White Privilege: The unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits, and choices bestowed on people solely because they are white. Generally, white people who experience such privilege do so without being conscious of it.

  • [Example: Growing up without being called a racial slur is an example of what would be called white privilege.] 

White Supremacy: A historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations, and peoples of color by white peoples and nations of the European continent for the purpose of establishing, maintaining, and defending a system of wealth, power and privilege.

CRT advocates have expanded the meaning of this term to include anything that they think is even marginally related to anything that anyone anywhere might think has a possible racist implication.

  • [Example: From the viewpoint of Critical Social Justice, such things as disparities in group outcomes (e.g. if there are more white people than black people attending college) are considered to be due to white supremacy. They think any racial disparity is evidence of white supremacy.] 

Whiteness: The processes and practices including basic rights, values, beliefs, perspectives, and experiences purported to be commonly shared by all but which are actually only consistently afforded to white people. CRT activists see whiteness as a dynamic operating at all times and on myriad levels.

  • [Example: Anything that is stereotypically associated with white people.] 

Woke: The act of being aware of and actively attentive to systems of power, especially as it concerns issues of racial and social justice.

  • [Example: If one thinks that all unequal outcomes are the fault of societal systems, that person is “woke” to the reality of systemic oppression.] 

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