In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Critical Race Theory and Communication

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews and Anthologies
  • Racism as Ordinary and Everyday
  • Reflections on and Critiques of Whiteness
  • Counterstorytelling and Challenging Dominant Narratives and Methodologies
  • Critique of Color-Evasion and Post-racialism
  • Critique of Essentialism: Anti-essentialism and the Particularities of Marginalized Experiences

Communication Critical Race Theory and Communication
Danielle Hodge, Lisa A. Flores
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 October 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 October 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0304


Critical race theory (CRT) is an intellectual, epistemological, and activist-oriented movement that emerged from an urgency to understand the nuances of race and racism and the embeddedness of oppression in law, legal institutions, and legal reasoning. As an intellectual movement, CRT is concerned with how white supremacist values, beliefs, and attitudes have been instituted and preserved in our social, cultural, political, and economic landscape and structures. As an epistemology, CRT posits race and racism as pervasive and enduring and centers marginalized voices, lived experiences, and thought. As an activist-oriented theoretical framework, CRT identifies, recognizes, and addresses racism and its relationship to power and seeks to interrupt, disrupt, challenge, and change these conditions. Each of these commitments is in strong opposition to the ways that current public discourse has (mis)characterized CRT as divisive, anti-American, and propaganda that threatens the stability of the United States of America. In fact, these misrepresentations starkly undermine the countless contributions of the movement that are preoccupied with justice, freedom, and change through realistic and honest assessments of our societies. Introduced in the 1980s and informed by critical legal studies (CLS), CRT questions the marginalization and depoliticization of race in discussions of law, reimagines how race and racism are understood in American society by disrupting notions of color-evasion, neutrality, and objectivity, and requires a view of race and racism that critiques ideologies of the former as aberrational and unique phenomena. Considering these concerns, it is no surprise that CRT is a transdisciplinary movement that has intellectual origins in the work of African American, Latinx, and Indigenous scholars and intellectual alignments with Black feminist thought, decolonial theories, and critical ethnic studies. With the help of some of CRT’s most notable scholars, including Derrick Bell and Kimberlé Crenshaw, CRT has transformed the way we study law, been taken up in disciplines such as African American studies, education, and communication, and proves to be a durable intellectual, epistemological, and activist-oriented movement that will continue to inform how we study and understand oppression, and how we seek to deconstruct and reconstruct our current conditions. Naming these histories alongside current debates offers an opportunity to reexamine and revisit the ways that CRT continues to impact our sociopolitical landscape while simultaneously shaping our scholarly endeavors. Moreover, it creates space to illustrate how CRT and communication intellectually complement each other through their transdisciplinary pursuits of interrogating domination and demanding liberation.


Critical race theory’s commitment to examining systems of oppression and their relationship to power and subordination can be traced through writings that predate its official formation and others that capture the tenets that make this epistemology cohesive. This section identifies major works that have come to shape our understanding of CRT, introduces pieces that arguably inform what we know as critical race theory, and names early contributions from communication scholarship that engages with CRT. Importantly, the latter begins to note the ways that communication and CRT are intellectually aligned in their concerns with race, power, and domination.

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