Connecticut Law Review Volume 43 - Issue 5

Beyond the Best Black: The Making of a Critical Race Theorist at Yale Law School

In Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw’s lead article in this Commentary Issue she contends that critical insights on race often develop out of institutional struggles over the terms upon which racial politics are engaged and normalized. My pathway to Critical Race Theory (CRT) confirms this idea. Thus, this comment traces the making of a critical race theorist at Yale through the contested discourses around race, meritocracy and affirmative action. These discourses not only shaped my experiences while I was at Yale, they also influenced my thoughts on these matters throughout my career as I transitioned from private practice back to life in the academy. Accordingly, in this Essay, I hope to uncover how the debates about affirmative action—debates that I understood to be about whether a guy like me had a legitimate place at Yale as both a J.D. and an LL.M student—helped me to understand the ways in which patterns of racial power were rationalized and naturalized in elite academic settings and by extension, throughout society at large. To accomplish this goal, I will borrow aspects of Crenshaw’s theory of frame misalignment so as to reframe the terms of this debate.

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