If you looked at housing sales on Long Island in the 1940s and 50s, you would see that the vast majority of homes were sold to white people, and almost none to people of color.

If you viewed that statistic in a vacuum, you might think that Black people simply didn’t want to live in the suburbs. But if you viewed it through the lens of Critical Race Theory, which considers the law in how racial disparities emerge, you would discover that the reason Black families didn’t move to Long Island was because of racism. Specifically, an insidious confluence of redlining and a clause in some standard Long Island leases, which stated a home “could not be used or occupied by any person other than members of the Caucasian race."

In a scholarly article titled “Rise, Development & Future Directions of Critical Race Theory & Related Scholarship”, written over a decade ago by professor Athena Mutua, the Floyd H. and Hilda L. Hurst faculty scholar at the University at Buffalo School of Law, CRT is described like this:

“The name, "Critical Race Theory" was coined in the late 1980's by Kimberle Crenshaw who explained that the theory represented a racial analysis, intervention and critique of traditional civil rights theory on the one hand, and of Critical Legal Studies insights on the other. Its basic premises are that race and racism are endemic to the American normative order and a pillar of American institutional and community life. Further, it suggests that law does not merely reflect and mediate pre-existing racialized social conflicts and relations.”

CRT pushes back against the notion that courts are somehow “colorblind."

“If you’re talking about the fairness and objectivity of the courts, CRT would ask, is that really fair?” explains Professor Mutua. “Or maybe it’s not fair. And there’s a pattern of unfairness to be seen.”

Critical Race Theory has been around for about 30 or 40 years, but it’s being discussed outside of academic circles these days according to Professor Mutua because it’s a reaction, or backlash, to the reckoning around race the country is experiencing after the murders of Black men and women at the hands of police. 

More superficially we are discussing the idea because President Donald Trump referenced it in the first President debate after moderator Chris Wallace asked why he ended racial sensitivity training in the White House.

Here’s his response:

Trump: “I ended it because it’s racist. I ended it because a lot of people were saying they were asked to do things that were absolutely insane.That it was a radical revolution that was taking place in our military, in our schools, all over the place, and you know it and so does everybody else.”

Wallace:  "What is radical about racial sensitivity training?”

Trump: "If you were a certain person, you had no status in life, it was sort of a reversal. And if you look at the people, we were paying them 100s of thousands of dollars to teach very bad ideas, and frankly very sick ideas, and really, they were teaching people to hate our country.  I’m not going to do that, and I’m not going to allow that to happen.”

President Donald Trump isn’t the only politician to reject CRT. 

A few weeks ago, Capital Tonight asked Rep. Elise Stefanik what she thought of the president’s decision to end racial sensitivity training. Like the president, she said she was fine with it because she doesn’t subscribe to Critical Race Theory.

But according to scholars who work with CRT who discussed the issue with Time Magazine, CRT “has become an indispensable and widely accepted tool for properly understanding the state of the nation.”

Professor Mutua discussed Critical Race Theory on Capital Tonight.