March 12, 2012 14:02 Age: 2 yrs

Professor Brown Discusses Critical Race Theory on CNN’s “Starting Point”

Emory Law Professor Dorothy A. Brown was a guest on CNN’s “Starting Point” Monday morning, invited to discuss critical race theory with the show’s host, Soledad O’Brien.

As an expert on the theory framed by late Harvard Law Professor Derrick Bell, Brown was asked to counter the opinions of another guest, Joel Pollak, editor-in-chief of

The show’s topic arose from controversy following’s post of video from President Barack Obama’s student days at Harvard, where during a demonstration he hugged Bell and asked the audience to "open up your hearts and your minds to the words of Professor Derrick Bell.”

Bell was Harvard Law’s first black tenured professor and died in 2011. He wrote the introduction to the second edition of Brown’s book Critical Race Theory, published in 2007.

“Critical race theory is all about white supremacy,” Pollak said.

Not so, Brown said.

“Critical race theory seeks to explain judicial decisions by asking the question ‘What does race have to do with it,’” Brown said. “It’s that simple; that straightforward. There’s no hidden conspiracy theory behind it. It looks at race in America. And we know that throughout history, that race has had a lot to do with judicial decisions and statutes.”

Elements of critical race theory have been controversial, and there are scholars at different ends of its spectrum, Brown said. She mentioned the example of Brown vs. Board of Education. Bell theorized that had the U.S. Supreme Court decided “separate but equal,” and both systems were equally funded, black children may have been better off. However, none of the theory’s scholars would characterize it as Pollak did, Brown said.

“No, it’s nothing about white supremacy,” Brown told O’Brien. “When I hear ‘white supremacy’ I think of the Ku Klux Klan. Critical race theory is the opposite of that.”

Related links:

Watch the show

Professor Brown’s profile



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