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Notes from the Field: Critical Race Theory and AAPI’s

“The attack on Critical Race Theory (CRT) is here to stay, at least for a while. To be honest, when Republican pols first began using the term around 2020, it felt like a trial balloon that would surely be short-lived. After all, the very few Americans who knew about CRT back then were probably professors and lawyers and what they knew about it was that CRT was an esoteric, marginalized legal theory. The stuff that law professors might get excited about, but practically no one else. Yet, as Glenn Youngkin showed in Virginia’s gubernatorial race last November, Republican candidates and strategists may just be onto something. The assault on CRT now appears to be one of the main weapons in the messaging arsenal that Republicans will deploy to woo and win voters in the 2022 midterms.

This installment of Notes from the Field thus shares some background and some thoughts on CRT and how it may relate to Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) engagement in 2022. I first review how we got here – both the recent politicization of CRT as a campaign issue and the origins of CRT as a legal movement in the academy. There are two “critical race theories” in play here and at the end of the day, the role that CRT plays in 2022 will depend on how it is defined and understood. “Critical Race Theory” as Republican candidates and campaigns aim to define it is a dog-whistle and a Hermione Granger grab bag for all sorts of discontents and resentment. Critical Race Theory as a considered and coherent perspective on the role of race in American law, society, and politics, however, is something that AAPI voters should relate to and have a stake in.”

Check out our latest piece on “Critical Race Theory and AAPIs” in Notes from the Field, a series of semi-regular think pieces authored by Takeu Lee, Senior Fellow at the AAPI Civic Engagement Fund. Lee is also the George Johnson Professor of Law and Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley, and currently serves on the U.S. Census Bureau’s National Advisory Committee.