In recent months, there have been numerous proclamations in the U.S. media that we have entered a post-racial society. These proclamations embrace an orthodoxy that has already made its way into the academic discourse about equality and access. The new orthodoxy encourages a silence about race and projects a sense that racial issues are behind us, or that they can be completely subsumed by discussions about class.
The founders of Critical Race Theory (CRT) were familiar with this silence about race. Although racial injustice permeated every aspect of law and society-and although we as a country were just beginning to emerge from hundreds of years of de jure segregation and slavery-discussions of race matters were markedly absent from the legal discourse when CRT was born 20 years ago. But twenty years ago, the founders of CRT met in Wisconsin, where they inaugurated a concerted and sustained effort to end the silence. The founders of the CRT movement brought voices into this void of silence, telling stories about the meaning of race in the U.S. and in the world.
Although they were subjected to widespread and sometimes scathing criticisms, the early CRT scholars bravely continued to write and to speak about race because they knew that their scholarship reflected reality – even when that reality was unfamiliar to the largely homogenous ranks of the legal academy. Their scholarship entered the discourse of U.S. civil rights and constitutional law but also changed forever all areas of legal scholarship, from education to criminal procedure to immigration to international human rights. Indeed, CRT gave birth to other progressive, anti-subordination movements such as Latina/o Critical Theory, OutCrits, and ClassCrits. Over time, the CRT founders’ truths became mainstays of the legal literature, and we are all richer for it.
For 20 years, the voices of these scholars have offered indispensable guidance to anyone who sought to use her scholarly voice to fight the silence about race and racism. As we enter a new era, where silence about race is once again being promoted as the only appropriate response to injustice, we need to hear these voices again and anew.
Today, we, a committee of relatively junior scholars, are seeking to renew that discussion among Critical Race Theorists. As a result, we are hosting a conference/workshop to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first historic meeting of CRT scholars. We invite you to join us in this endeavor.