Introduction to Critical Race Theory


Fall 2017

Faculty: Adrienne Keene

“If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don’t see.”

–James Baldwin

I will sing for people who might not sing for me.
I will sing for people who are not my family.

I will sing honor songs for the unfamilar and new.
I will visit a different church and pray in a different pew.

I will silently sit and carefully listen to new stories
About other people’s tragedies and glories.

I will not assume my pain and joy are better.
I will not claim my people invented gravity or weather.

And, oh, I know I will still feel my rage and rage and rage
But I won’t act like I’m the only person onstage.

I am one more citizen marching against hatred.
Alone, we are defenseless. Collected, we are sacred.

                                                –Sherman Alexie, Hymn (2017)


“Saying that I’m obsessed with race and racism in America is like saying that I’m obsessed with swimming while I’m drowning.”

— Hari Kondabolu



Course Description:


This graduate seminar will explore the foundations and central tenets of Critical Race Theory, from its origins in Critical Legal Studies, to current applications, debates, and evolutions, with particular attention to CRT’s intersections with the field of American Studies. We will also bring in CRT “offshoots” such as TribalCrit, LatCrit, AsianCrit, and DisCrit. CRT posits that racism is endemic to society, but that we must also remain committed to social justice and praxis. How do we navigate these tensions, use CRT to provide a toolkit for navigating scholarship, and work toward social change in the realms of race and racism?


Learning Outcomes:

By the end of the course, students will have a clearer understanding of:

  • A working understanding of Critical Race Theory and its central tenets (Critiques of liberalism, racial realism, intersectionality, interest convergence, praxis)
  • An understanding of the endemic nature of racism and white supremacy to US society at its founding and into the present
  • An understanding of the diverse methods of inquiry and diverse forms of CRT scholarship
  • The ability to easily and openly discuss issues of race, racism, and settler colonialism
  • An understanding of the role of praxis in CRT scholarship
  • The ability to read, digest, critique, apply, and understand CRT scholarship

The specific skills that students will use and develop in order to achieve these intellectual goals are:

  Reading critically a variety of media—from books, book chapters, journal articles, blogs and websites.

  Producing assignments in different forms including presentations, written essays, research proposals, and book reviews that require the students to both reflect on assigned readings, lectures, and their lived experience.

  Integrating knowledge from different disciplines in order to develop a new understanding of issues of race, racism, settler colonialism, intersectionality, and inequity.

  Participating in in-class facilitations and discussions to further explore issues raised in the assigned reading.

Your final grade will be calculated and based on:

Assignment Points/%
Attendance and participation 30
Positionality paper 5
Current Event project 20
Final research proposal or Book Review 45


Course Requirements:

Your final grade will be based on: attendance and participation in class discussion, including class facilitation(s) and weekly “hot topics” (30%), a positionality paper (5%), a current event project (20%), and a research proposal or book reviews (45%).

 Attendance and Participation (30%):


Since our course only meets 13 times, attendance to class is of utmost importance. You must notify Professor Keene via email if you are missing class, and while illness and other unforeseen circumstances occur, students should make every effort to attend class and arrive on time. If you miss more than one class, your grade will begin to be affected, more than two classes may put your passing the course in jeopardy.

Class facilitation(s):

One week of the semester (or two depending on class size) you and a partner will be responsible for guiding the class discussion. This will involve preparation through a close reading of the assigned texts and talking with your partner outside of class. The two of you will develop a plan for stimulating discussion, whether it is a class activity, small group discussions, bringing in outside materials like video clips or a short in-class reading, discussion questions posed to the class, or anything else you can dream up. The texts and theories are by no means perfect, so this is a chance to engage in thoughtful scholarly critique about the readings for the week. There are no days off; even when someone else is leading discussion, everyone is assessed on their performance and contribution.

Each facilitation group must email the rough plan for class by Tuesday night before Wednesday class.

Weekly “Hot Topics”:

 In the spirit of The Read Podcast, at the beginning of each class we’ll have time to run down some of the current events and media moments that have occurred in the last week in regards to the topics of the course. CRT has a commitment to praxis and making theory applicable to the real world and communities, so this is a chance to apply CRT lenses to an analysis of current events. As class is beginning each week, students can write topics on the board for discussion. This will provide the framework for the current event project as well.

Positionality Paper (5%): This short paper (1-2pgs, graded C/NC) asks you to understand your own relationship to the topic of the course, and help the instructor to better shape the content and direction of the course. What is your prior experience with CRT? What experiences in your life have shaped your relationships to the course topic? Due 9/15 by 11:59pm

 Current event project (20%):

This midterm assignment asks you to take a current event (something discussed in Hot Topics or another of your choosing) and analyze it through CRT tenets, course readings, and outside sources. Papers should be between 1500-2000 words. Due 10/13 by 11:59pm

Final Research Project Proposal or Book Review (45%):

Final Projects have the choice of completing a research proposal (in the format of a grant proposal or dissertation proposal) (approx. 40000 words), two shorter book reviews (2000-2500 words each), or one longer form book review (4000-5000 words). Due 12/16 by 11:59 pm

 Credit-Hours notice: Over 14 weeks, students will spend 3 hours per week in class (42 hours total). Required reading for the seminar meetings is expected to take up approximately 7 hours per week (98 hours). In addition, writing and researching response essays, course facilitation preparation, and the final project is estimated at total of approximately 40 hours over the course of the term.


Classroom Policies:

 Attendance: You must notify me via email if you are missing class, and while illness and other unforeseen circumstances occur, every attempt should be made to attend class. As we only meet 13 times if you miss more than one class, your grade will begin to be affected, more than two classes may put your passing the course in jeopardy.

 Late Submissions: All assignments have an automatic two-day grace period. On time and early papers are always encouraged and will have the professor’s fresh eyes on them, but students also have two days to turn in the paper, no questions asked. After that, an automatic one grade (A to B, B to C, etc) is dropped on the paper, and the student will need to meet with Professor Keene to work out a plan. I encourage you to plan ahead with your schedule, comparing the syllabi for your courses now, to see when you have conflicting assignments or difficult weeks. If things look impossible, please talk to me with plenty of advance notice.

Plagiarism/Academic Honesty: Any breach of academic integrity will not be tolerated and will be reported immediately. Infringement of the academic code entails penalties ranging from a zero on the assignment, to reprimand, suspension, dismissal, or expulsion from the program. Students should refer to the Brown Academic Code:

 Grade policy: All grades are final, and students can track their progress throughout the program by emailing Professor Keene and tracking on Canvas. There will not be any make-up or extra credit assignments offered. Incompletes may be negotiated with a dean’s assistance in extreme circumstances.

Accessibility and Accommodations: Students gain access to academic learning in a variety of ways. Brown University is committed to full inclusion of all students. Please inform me early in the term if you have a disability or other conditions that might require accommodations or modification of any of these course procedures. You may speak with me after class or during office hours. For more information, please contact Student and Employee Accessibility Services at 401-863-9588 or Students in need of short-term academic advice or support can contact one of the deans in the Dean of the College office.

Names and Pronouns: If you go by a different name or gender pronoun than the one under which you are officially enrolled, please inform me. Students are expected to respectfully refer to each other by preferred names and pronouns during class discussions.

Basic Needs: Any student who faces challenges securing their food or housing and believes this may affect their performance in the course is urged to contact the Dean’s office for support. Furthermore, please notify Professor Keene if you are comfortable in doing so. This will enable her to provide any resources that she may possess.


REQUIRED TEXTS (and costs): Overall approximate required book costs are ~ $22-$60, depending on individual price.

  • Bonilla-Silva, E. (2017). Racism without racists: Color-blind racism and the persistence of racial inequality in America. Rowman & Littlefield. 4th edition. (Amazon: $11 (used), $27 (new), $27 (kindle))
  • Alexander, M. (2012). The new Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness. The New Press. (Amazon: $13 (new), $11 (kindle))

A note on readings: The reading load for the course is high; most weeks have four articles or a book. Texts listed as “Additional/optional” are just that, there were far too many texts I wanted to include. Feel free to use these for assignments or book reviews however. The graduate school expectation is reading for overall argument and illustrative examples, not memorization of the entire text, but the expectation is that you will read the entire book or assigned articles. When links to online articles are available they are provided, all others will be on the Canvas course site.


Weekly Topic Breakdown:

Week 1 (9/6): Introductions, Expectations, Foundations, CRT overview

Week 2 (9/13): Racial Formations

Positionality Paper Due 9/15 by 11:59pm

Week 3 (9/20): CRT Foundations and Tenets

Week 4 (9/27): Settler Colonialism and Tribal Crit

Week 5 (10/4): Whiteness

Week 6 (10/11): Colorblind Racism, Myths of “postracial”

Midterm Current Event Analysis Due 10/13 by 11:59pm

Week 7 (10/18): Offshoots

Week 8 (10/25): Counterstorytelling, CRT Methodologies

Week 9 (11/1): CRT in Education

Week 10 (11/8): Mass incarceration

Week 11(11/15): Reparations and Reconciliation

Week 12 (11/22): NO CLASS

Week 13 (11/29): Where we are: CRT speaking to the current moment

Week 14 (12/6): CRT Praxis, Hope, and Moving Forward

Finals Due 12/16 by 11:59pm

Week 1 (9/6): Introductions, Expectations, Foundations, CRT overview

Week 2 (9/13): Racial Formations

  • Omi, M., & Winant, H. (2004). Racial formations. In M. Omi & H. Winant (Eds.), Racial formation in the United States, (2nd Edition) (pp. 3-13). New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Haney López, I. F. (1994). The social construction of race. In Richard Delgado (Ed.) Critical Race Theory: The cutting edge (pp. 191-203). Philadelphia, PA: Temple University
  • Massey, D. S. (2009). Racial formation in theory and practice: The case of Mexicans in the United States. Race and Social Problems, 1(1), 12-26.
  • Winant, H. (2000). Race and race theory. Annual Review of Sociology, 26(1), 169-185.



“Race IAT” and “Native IAT”

  • AFTER you take the tests, read this article.

Positionality Paper Due 9/15 by 11:59pm


Week 3 (9/20): CRT Foundations and Tenets

  • Book: Delgado, R., & Stefancic, J. (2017). Critical race theory: An introduction. NYU Press. (available online through Brown)  Full text PDF:
  • Article: Crenshaw, K. (1991). Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. Stanford law review, 1241-1299.




Permanence of racism:

  • Bell, D. (1987). And we are not saved: The elusive quest for racial justice. New York: Basic Books.
  • Bell, D. (1993). Faces at the bottom of the well: The permanence of racism. New York: Basic Books.
  • Bell, D. (2000). Wanted: A White leader able to free Whites of racism. UC Davis Law Review, 33(3), 527-544.


  • Hancock, A.-M. (2007). When multiplication doesn’t equal quick addition: Examining intersectionality as a research paradigm. Perspectives in Politics, 5(1), 63-79.
  • Han, C.-s. (2008). No fats, femmes, or Asians: The utility of critical race theory in examining the role of gay stock stories in the marginalization of Asian men. Contemporary Justice Review, 11(1), 11-12.
  • Patton, L. D., & Simmons, S. L. (2008). Exploring complexities of multiple identities of lesbians in a Black college environment. The Negro Educational Review, 59(3), 197-215. Link (EBSCO)
  • Hancock, A.-M. (2005). W.E.B. DuBois: Intellectual forefather of intersectionality? Souls, 7(3), 74-84.

Interest Convergence:

  • Bell, D. A. (1979). Brown v. Board of Education and other interest convergence dilemma. Harvard Law Review, 93(3), 518-534.
  • Donnor, J. K. (2005). Towards an interest-convergence in the education of African American student athletes in major college sports. Race, Ethnicity and Education, 8(1), 45-67.
  • Dudziak, M. L. (1988). Desegregation as a cold war imperative. Stanford Law Review, 41(1), 61-120.
  • Harper, S. R. (2009). Race, interest convergence, and transfer outcomes for Black male student athletes. In L. S. Hagedorn & D. Horton (Eds.), Student athletes and athletics. New Directions for Community Colleges (No. 147, Fall 2009, pp. 29-37).
  • Milner, H. R. (2008). Critical Race Theory and interest convergence as analytical tools in teacher education policies and practices. Journal of Teacher Education, 59(4), 332-346.
  • Taylor, E. (2000). Critical Race Theory and interest convergence in the backlash against affirmative action: Washington State and Initiative 200. Teachers College Record,102(3), 539-560.


Week 4 (9/27): Settler Colonialism and Tribal Crit



  • Castagno, A. E. (2005). Extending the bounds of race and racism: Indigenous women and the persistence of the Black-White paradigm of race. Urban Review, 37(5), 447-468. (Link)
  • Coulthard, G. S. (2014). Red skin, white masks: Rejecting the colonial politics of recognition.
  • Grande, S. (2015). Red pedagogy: Native American social and political thought. Rowman & Littlefield.
  • Dunbar-Ortiz, R. (2014). An indigenous peoples’ history of the United States. Beacon Press.


Week 5 (10/4): Whiteness


Week 6 (10/11): Colorblind Racism, Myths of “postracial”

  • Book: Bonilla-Silva, E. (2017). Racism without racists: Color-blind racism and the persistence of racial inequality in America. Rowman & Littlefield.
  • Kendi, I. X. (2016). Stamped from the beginning: The definitive history of racist ideas in America. Nation Books. (Epilogue, pgs 497-511)

Midterm Current Event Analysis Due 10/13 by 11:59pm

Week 7 (10/18): Offshoots

You will choose four articles from the list below; you will be responsible for reporting the key tenets of your “offshoots” back to the class. Facilitators for this week will be responsible for facilitating conversations between and among the groups, while also asking broader questions of “dilution” of CRT, specificity, black-white binaries, etc.


  • Misawa, M. (2014). Professional identity development: An Asian queer crit perspective in adult and higher education.
  •  Johnson, E. P. (2001). ” Quare” studies, or (almost) everything I know about queer studies I learned from my grandmother. Text and Performance Quarterly21(1), 1-25.


  • Salis Reyes, Nicole Alia. 2017. A Space for Survivance: Locating Kānaka Maoli through the Resonance and Dissonance of Critical Race Theory. Race Ethnicity and Education, (In Press).


  • Annamma, S. A., Connor, D., & Ferri, B. (2013). Dis/ability critical race studies (DisCrit): Theorizing at the intersections of race and dis/ability. Race Ethnicity and Education16(1), 1-31.


  • Lopez, I. F. H. (1998). Race, ethnicity, erasure: The salience of race to LatCrit theory. La Raza LJ10, 57.
  • Villalpando, O. (2003). Self‐segregation or self‐preservation? A critical race theory and Latina/o critical theory analysis of a study of Chicana/o college students. Qualitative Studies in Education, 16(5), 619-646.
  • Alemán, Jr, E., & Alemán, S. M. (2010). ‘Do Latin@ interests always have to “converge” with White interests?’:(Re) claiming racial realism and interest‐convergence in critical race theory praxis. Race Ethnicity and Education, 13(1), 1-21.
  • Romero, M. (2008). Crossing the immigration and race border: A Critical Race Theory approach to immigration studies. Contemporary Justice Review, 11(1), 23-37.



Week 8 (10/25): Counterstorytelling, CRT Methodologies

Week 9 (11/1): CRT in Education


Week 10 (11/8): Mass incarceration  

  • Book: Alexander, M. (2012). The new Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness. The New Press.

Week 11 (11/15): Reparations and Reconciliation

 Week 12 (11/22): NO CLASS

 Week 13 (11/29): Where we are: CRT speaking to the current moment

Week 14 (12/6): CRT as Praxis, Hope, and moving forward

 Finals Due 12/16 by 11:59pm