Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Law Library Homepage About the Law Library Research Services Faculty Students Help Ask a Law Librarian Law Library Home page UNC Libraries Law Library Blog Twitter

Critical Race Theory

This guide provides an overview of research strategies and resources on the topic of Critical Race Theory at the UNC School of Law.

Developments

Though Critical Race Theory began with largely African-American critiques of Critical Legal Studies' failure to account for race, scholars quickly began to assert the importance of recognizing the ways in which different minority groups in the U.S. are treated differently by the law. Asian-American Critical Race Theory, Latina/o or Latinx Critical Race Theory, and Indigenous Critical Race Theory added invaluable perspectives to the body of CRT scholarship. Whiteness studies began to examine the ways in which whiteness operated as a category within American law. Other scholars explored the ways in which race and ethnicity intersected with other identities, bringing together LGBTQ studies and disability studies with various aspects of Critical Race Theory. Selected works from these topics are below.

 

Latinx Critical Race Theory

Monographs and Casebooks

 

Latinos and the Law: Cases and Materials, by Richard Delgado, Juan F. Perea, and Jean Stefancic. Available in print. This casebook contains an array of issues relating to this important and rapidly growing group: legal, social construction, language, education, immigration, stereotyping, workplace discrimination, rebellious lawyering, and the special issues of Latina/os.

The Latino/a Condition: A Critical Reader, by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic. Available in print. The Latino/a Condition brings together a wide range of new and classic Latino and Latina voices from the fields of law, sociology, history, media studies, and politics.

Gringo Injustice: Insider Perspective on Police, Gangs, and Law, ed. Alfredo Mirandé. Available online. This text covers the history of the relationship between Latinx communities and law enforcement and the judicial system. First hand accounts shed light on individual interactions while other essays offer broader context.

Key Terms in Latino/a Cultural and Literary Studies, by Paul Allatson. Available in print. A guide to hundreds of key terms in the fields of Latino/a cultural studies, literary studies, and more.

Latina/o Studies, by Ronald L. Mize. Available in print. Mize's work serves as an introduction to the field of Latina/o studies generally and includes a section on Critical Race Theory.

Latino/a Rights and Justice in the United States: Perspectives and Approaches by José Luis Morín. First edition available in print and online. Second edition available in print. Latino/a Rights and Justice in the United States explores the inequalities and injustices that Latino/a communities confront in the United States. Morín provides a deeper understanding of the historical and contemporary Latino/a experience of discrimination and economic and social injustice and presents insights into the elusiveness of equality and fairness for Latinos/as in the United States.

Latinos and American Law: Landmark Supreme Court Cases, by Carlos R. Soltero. Available online and in print. This text covers major U.S. Supreme Court cases that relate to Latinx communities in the U.S., including historical background and explanations of the cases.

The Oxford Encyclopedia of Latinos and Latinas in Contemporary Politics, Law, and Social Movements, ed. Suzanne Oboler, Deena J. Gonzáles. Available in print. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Latinos and Latinas in Contemporary Politics, Law, and Social Movements provides a comprehensive source of information on the diverse historical and contemporary experiences of Latinos and Latinas in the United States.

 

Articles

 

I.F.H. Lopez, "Race, ethnicity, erasure: The salience of race to LatCrit theory." 10 Berkley La Raza L.J. 57 (1998).

M. Romero, Crossing the immigration and race border: A Critical Race Theory approach to immigration studies." Contemporary Justice Review, 11(1), 23-37 (2008).

Asian-American Critical Race Theory

Monographs

 

Asian Americans and Politics: Perspectives, Experiences, Prospects, ed. Gordon H. Chang. Available in print. his volume of fifteen essays is the first to take a broad-ranging look at the engagement of Asian Americans with American politics. Its contributors are drawn from a variety of disciplines-- law, history, political science, sociology, and urban studies--and from the practical political realm.

Disoriented: Asian Americans, Law, and the Nation-State, by Robert S. Chang. Available online and in print. Robert Chang examines the current discourse on race and law and the implications of postmodern theory and affirmative action - all of which have largely excluded Asian Americans - in order to develop a theory of critical Asian American legal studies.

The Fight for Asian American Civil Rights: Liberal Protestant Activism, 1900-1950 by Sarah M. Griffith. Available in print. From the early 1900s, liberal Protestants grafted social welfare work onto spiritual concerns on both sides of the Pacific. Their goal: to forge links between whites and Asians that countered anti-Asian discrimination in the United States.

The Myth of the Model Minority: Asian Americans Facing Racism by Rosalind S. Chou and Joe R. Feagin. Available in print and online. The book explores the "double consciousness" of many Asian Americans - experiencing racism but feeling the pressures to conform to popular images of their group as America's highly achieving "model minority." The second edition adds new research on how racial stereotyping is gendered and sexualized.

The Subject(s) of Human Rights: Crises, Violations, and Asian/American Critique, ed. Cathy J. Schlund-Vials et al. Available in print. The essays in this collection provide an understanding of how Asian/Americans have been subjected to human rights violations, how they act as subjects of history and agents of change, and how they produce knowledge around such subjects.

Two Faces of Exclusion: The Untold History of Anti-Asian Racism in the United States, by Lon Kurashige. Available in print and online. From the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to Japanese American internment during World War II, the US has a long history of anti-Asian policies. But Kurashige demonstrates that Asian exclusion was not the product of an ongoing national consensus, it was a subject of fierce debate.  

Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White by Frank Wu. Available in print and online. Combining personal anecdotes, social-science research, legal cases, history, and original journalistic reporting, Wu discusses damaging Asian American stereotypes such as "the model minority" and "the perpetual foreigner."

 

Articles

 

Robert S. Chang, "Toward an Asian American legal scholarship: Critical race theory, post-structuralism, and narrative space." 81 California Law Review 1243 (1993). Chang argues that then-current critical race theory failed to account for the unique issues that Asian-Americans face, including nativistic racism and the model minority myth. This article offers a framework for constructing an Asian-American CRT that acknowledges the different position of disempowered groups while maintaining the possibility of solidarity among them.

Neil Gotanda, "Critical Legal Studies, Critical Race Theory And Asian American Studies," 21 Amerasia Journal 127 (1995). Gotand explores the relationship between Asian American Studies and Critical Race Theory, arguing that legal liberalism does not fully account for the status of Asian Americans in U.S. law, and a postmodern understanding better describes their condition.

A.K. Wing, "USA 2050: Identity, Critical Race Theory, and the Asian century." 99 Michigan Law Review 1390 (2000-2001). Wing reviews Robert Chang's "Disoriented: Asian-Americans, Law, and the Nation-State" and provides an overview of the Asian-American CRT field at that time.

Indigenous Critical Race Theory

Monographs
 
American Indians and the Rhetoric of Removal and Allotment, by Jason Edward Black. Available in print and online. Black examines the ways the US government's rhetoric and American Indian responses contributed to the policies of Native-US relations throughout the nineteenth century's removal and allotment eras.

Colonialism is Crime, by Marianne O. Nielsen and Linda M. Robyn. Available in print. Achieving historical colonial goals often meant committing acts that were criminal even at the time. This book presents an analysis of the relationship between these colonial crimes and their continuing criminal and social consequences that exist today.

Critical Indigenous Rights Studies, ed. Giselle Corradi, Koen de Feyter, Ellen Desmet, and Katrijn Vanhees. Available online. This book draws on sociology of law, anthropology, political sciences and legal sciences in order to address emerging issues in the study of indigenous rights and identify directions for future research.

Critical Indigenous Studies: Engagements in First World Locations, ed. Aileen Moreton-Robinson. Available in print. These essays place and contemplate critical Indigenous studies within the context of First World nations, which continue to occupy Indigenous lands in the twenty-first century. The contributors include Aboriginal, Metis, Maori, Kanaka Maoli, Filipino-Pohnpeian, and Native American scholars working and writing through a shared legacy of British and U.S. imperialism.

An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. Available in print and online. Dunbar-Ortiz offers a history of the United States told from the perspective of Indigenous peoples and reveals how Native Americans, for centuries, actively resisted expansion of the US empire.

Indigenous Peoples as Subjects of International Law, ed. Irene Watson. Available online. For more than 500 years, Indigenous laws have been disregarded under international law. Appeals for their recognition have failed - mainly because international law was itself shaped by colonialism. How, this volume asks, might international law be reconstructed, so that it is liberated from its colonial origins?

Native Acts: Law, Recognition, and Cultural Authenticity, by Joanne Barker. Available in print and online.  Barker contends that the concepts and assumptions of cultural authenticity within Native communities potentially reproduce the very social inequalities and injustices of racism, ethnocentrism, sexism, homophobia, and fundamentalism that define U.S. nationalism and, by extension, Native oppression.

Reclaiming the Reservation: Histories of Indian Sovereignty Suppressed and Renewed, by Alexandra Harmon. Available in print. Harmon delves into Quinault, Suquamish, and pan-tribal histories to illuminate the roots of Indians' claim of regulatory power in their reserved homelands. She considers the promises and perils of relying on the US legal system to address the damage caused by colonial dispossession. She also shows how tribes have responded since 1978, seeking and often finding new ways to protect their interests and assert their sovereignty.

Sovereign Acts: Contesting Colonialism Across Indigenous Nations and Latinx America, ed. Frances Negrón-Muntaner. Available online. This work examines the multiple ways that Indigenous nations and U.S. territorial peoples act as sovereign and the possible limits of such sovereign acts within the current globalized context. A valuable contribution to the debate around indigenous and other conceptions of sovereignty, Sovereign Acts goes further than legal frameworks to investigate the relationships among sovereignty, gender, sexuality, representation, and the body.

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: A Commentary ed. Jessie Hohmann and Marc Weller. Available in print. The rights of indigenous peoples under international law have seen significant change in recent years, as various international bodies have attempted to address the question of how best to protect and enforce their rights. This comprehensive commentary on the Declaration analyses in detail both the substantive content of the Declaration and the position of the Declaration within existing international law.
 
Articles
 
Robert A. Williams Jr., "Linking Arms Together: Multicultural Constitutionalism in a North American Indigenous Vision of Law and Peace,"  82 Cal. L. Rev. 981 (1994). Williams examines seventeenth and eighteenth century treaties between Native Americans and white settlers to demonstrate how those populations conceived of "law and peace" in a multicultural society.
 
Nicole Alia Salis Reyes,"A Space for Survivance: Locating Kānaka Maoli through the Resonance and Dissonance of Critical Race Theory." 20 Race Ethnicity and Education 739 (2017).
 
Special Projects
 
Native Land Digital is a Canadian nonprofit, led by Indigenous people, that has created a map and other resources on Indigenous lands in North America and beyond. Though not specifically a Critical Race Theory project, it may be of use to CRT researchers.

CRT Across Racial and Ethnic lines

Many works in CRT focus on a particular racial or ethnic group in order to examine how U.S. laws and legal systems have impacted that group. Other works examine how law affects relationships between and among those groups. Some selected works are below.

 

The Color of America Has Changed: How Racial Diversity Shaped Civil Rights Reform in California, 1941-1978, by Mark Brilliant. Available in print and online. This book examines the Civil Rights Movement in the West in order to bring the West to the Civil Rights Movement. It explores the challenge that California's racial diversity posed for building a multiracial civil rights movement, focusing on litigation and legislation initiatives advanced by civil rights reformers (lawyers, legislators, and advocacy organizations) on behalf of the state's different racial groups.

Minority Relations: Intergroup Conflict and Cooperation, ed. Greg Robinson and Robert S. Chang. 2019. Available online and in print. This collection strives to encourage further thinking and writing by social scientists, legal scholars, and policymakers on inter-minority connections, often in the context of advocating for legal rights.

Fighting Their Own Battles: Mexican Americans, African Americans, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Texas, by Brian D. Behnken. Available online. Between 1940 and 1975, Mexican Americans and African Americans in Texas fought a number of battles in court, at the ballot box, in schools, and on the streets to eliminate segregation and state-imposed racism. Behnken explores the cultural dissimilarities, geographical distance, class tensions, and organizational differences that all worked to separate the two groups.

Transpacific Antiracism: Afro-Asian Solidarity in Twentieth Century Black America, Japan, and Okinawa, by Yuichiro Onishi. Available in print and online. This book explores the work of Black intellectual-activists of the first half of the twentieth century, including Hubert Harrison and W. E. B. Du Bois, that took a pro-Japan stance to articulate the connection between local and global dimensions of antiracism. Turning to two places rarely seen as a part of the Black experience, Japan and Okinawa, the book also presents the accounts of a group of Japanese scholars shaping the Black studies movement in post-surrender Japan and multiracial coalition-building in U.S.-occupied Okinawa during the height of the Vietnam War which brought together local activists, peace activists, and antiracist and antiwar GIs.

 

Whiteness Studies and CRT

Monographs

 

Critical White Studies: Looking Behind the Mirror, by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic. Available in print. A sweeping portrait of the emerging field of whiteness studies, Critical White Studies presents work from sociology, law, history, cultural studies, and literature. Delgado and Stefancic expressly offer critical white studies as the next step in critical race theory.

The History of White People, by Nell Irvin Painter. Available in print. Filling a gap in historical literature that long focused on the non-white, historian Nell Irvin Painter explores more than two thousand years of Western civilization, tracing not only the invention of the idea of race but also the frequent worship of "whiteness" for economic, social, scientific, and political ends.

Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South, 1890-1940, by Grace Elizabeth Hale. Available in print. Making Whiteness explains how and why whiteness came to be such a crucial, embattled, and distorting component of twentieth-century American identity.

White Privilege: Essential Readings on the Other Side of Racism, by Paula S. Rothenberg. First edition available in print. Second edition available in print. No discussion of race is complete without exploring the other side - the ways in which some people or groups benefit (intentionally or unintentionally) from racial bias. White Privilege analyzes the nature of white privilege, and offers suggestions for using that privilege in order to combat racism.

The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics, by George Lipsitz. First edition available in print. Second edition available in print and online. 20th anniversary edition available in print and online. Attacking the common view that whiteness is a meaningless category of identity, this book examines how public policy and private prejudice insure that whites wind up on top of the social hierarchy.

The Construction of Whiteness: An Interdisciplinary Analysis of Race Formation and the Meaning of a White Identity, ed. Stephen Middleton, David R. Roediger, and Donald M. Shaffer. Available in print and online. This volume collects interdisciplinary essays that examine the crucial intersection between whiteness as a privileged racial category and the various material practices (social, cultural, political, and economic) that undergird white ideological influence in America.

 

Articles

 

Cheryl I. Harris, "Whiteness As Property," 106 Harvard Law Review 1707 (1993). In this essay, Harris explores the relationship between property and whiteness, arguing that whiteness, originally constructed as a racial identity, has evolved into a form of property under American law.

Barbara J. Flagg, "Whiteness as Metaprivilege," 18 Wash. U. J.L. & Pol'y 1 (2005). Flagg's piece introduces a special issue of this journal on the topic of whiteness and law.

CRT and Disability Studies

Monographs and Bibliographies

 

A Disability History of the United States, by Kim E. Nielsen. Available in print. Covering US history from pre-1492 to the present, A Disability History of the United States places the experiences of people with disabilities at the center of the American narrative. Nielsen illustrates how concepts of disability have deeply shaped the American experience - from deciding who was allowed to immigrate to establishing labor laws and justifying slavery and gender discrimination.

Decarcerating Disability: Deinstitutionalization and Prison Abolition, by Liat Ben-Moshe. Prison abolition and decarceration are increasingly debated, but it is often without taking into account the largest exodus of people from carceral facilities in the twentieth century: the closure of disability institutions and psychiatric hospitals. Decarcerating Disability provides a much-needed corrective, combining a genealogy of deinstitutionalization with critiques of the current prison system.

No Right to Be Idle: The Invention of Disability, 1840s-1930s, by Sarah F. Rose. Available in print and online. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Americans with all sorts of disabilities came to be labeled as "unproductive citizens." Before that, disabled people had contributed as they were able in homes, on farms, and in the wage labor market, reflecting the fact that Americans had long viewed productivity as a spectrum that varied by age, gender, and ability. But as Sarah F. Rose explains in No Right to Be Idle , a perfect storm of public policies, shifting family structures, and economic changes effectively barred workers with disabilities from mainstream workplaces and simultaneously cast disabled people as morally questionable dependents in need of permanent rehabilitation to achieve "self-care" and "self-support."

Disability as a Social Construct: Legislative Roots, by Claire H. Liachowitz. Available in print and online. Liachowitz contends that disability is not merely a result of a handicap but can be imposed by society through devaluation and segregation of people who deviate from physical norms. She analyzes pertinent American legislation, primarily from 1770 to 1920, to provide a new perspective on the mechanisms that translate physical defects into social and civil inferiority.

Oxford Bibliography on Race and Disability, by Dennis Tyler. Available online. This bibliography lists works at the intersection of race and disability studies.

 

Articles

 

S. A. Annamma, Connor, D., & Ferri, B. (2013). Dis/ability critical race studies (DisCrit): Theorizing at the intersections of race and dis/ability. Race Ethnicity and Education, 16(1), 1-31.

CRT and Queer Studies

Monographs

 

Fugitive Life: The Queer Politics of the Prison State, by Stephen Dillon. Available in print and online. During the 1970s in the United States, hundreds of feminist, queer, and antiracist activists were imprisoned or became fugitives as they fought the changing contours of U.S. imperialism, global capitalism, and a repressive racial state. In Fugitive Life Stephen Dillon examines these activists' communiqués, films, memoirs, prison writing, and poetry to highlight the centrality of gender and sexuality to a mode of racialized power called the neoliberal-carceral state.

The Straight State: Sexuality and Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America, by Margot Canaday. Available in print. The Straight State is an expansive study of the federal regulation of homosexuality. Canaday shows how the state systematically came to penalize homosexuality, giving rise to a regime of second-class citizenship that sexual minorities still live under today.

 

Articles

 

Mitsunori Misawa. “Social Justice Narrative Inquiry: A Queer Crit Perspective,” Adult Education Research Conference (2012). http://newprairiepress.org/aerc/2012/papers/34