Equality and Diversity Lecture 2020-21: Critical Race Theory

Event date
4 November 2020
Event time
18:30 - 20:00
Oxford week
Zoom Webinar
Kendall Thomas

Notes & Changes

A recording of this event is available via the Oxford Law Faculty YouTube page.

Critical Race Theory, 'Critical Race Theory', and the Weaponization of Racial Illiteracy: A Report from the Front Line


The Faculty of Law is delighted to welcome Kendall Thomas, Nash Professor of Law at Columbia University to deliver this year's Equality and Diversity Lecture on Critical Race Theory, 'Critical Race Theory', and the Weaponization of Racial Illiteracy: A Report from the Front Line.

The lecture will offer a critical account of the recent attack on Critical Race Theory by the Trump administration and its allies. Drawing on interdisciplinary writing about the law and politics of race, Professor Thomas will make three overlapping claims. First, he suggests that it would be a mistake to view the executive branch's effort to "purge" and "extinguish" Critical Race Theory (to use the President's own terms) from the national discourse as an aberrant or deviant moment in U.S. national life. Second, tracing its roots to 19th-century state statutes outlawing the education of enslaved African-Americans, and noting its coincident connections with the 21st-century campaign for constitutional recognition of a "right to literacy", he argues that President Trump's assault on Critical Race Theory is best seen as the latest historical chapter in the legal and political "weaponization" of "compulsory racial illiteracy". He concludes with a few reflections on what Mr. Trump's ideological war against critical racial literacy tells us about the limits of the dominant "anti-discrimination" and "diversity" paradigms for understanding law's foundational and continuing role in the "development of Black underdevelopment".



Kendall Thomas, Nash Professor of Law, Columbia University


Kendall Thomas is the Nash Professor of Law and co-founder and Director of the Center for the Study of Law and Culture at Columbia University in the City of New York. In addition to publications in academic journals and scholarly and popular anthologies, Thomas is an editor of Critical Race Theory: Key Writings that Formed the Movement (New Press, 1995), the first anthology of Critical Race Theory scholarship and of Legge, Razza e Diritti: La Critical Race Theory negli Stati Uniti (Edizioni Diabasis, 2006). His 2005 collaboration with choreographer William Forsythe, Human Writes, has been performed to critical acclaim before audiences in several venues, including the International Theatre Festival in Istanbul, Turkey and, at the invitation of the United Nations' Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

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Equality and Diversity