Truth and Myth in Critical Race Theory and Latcrit: Human Rights and the Ethnocentrism of Anti-Ethnocentrism
National Black Law Journal (Columbia Law School), Vol. 20, No. 2, pp. 62-107, 2008
76 Pages Posted: 6 Oct 2009
Date Written: 2008
Critical race theorists and LatCrits argue that, throughout US history, norms promising liberty and equality have been myths. They examine the formalisms of US rights discourse through the lens of a realist jurisprudence, arguing that guarantees of ‘equal protection’ or ‘due process’ have failed non-dominant groups throughout long histories of slavery, segregation, subordination, and ongoing exclusion. However, a number of them merely substitute a simplistic myth of US-is-good with an equally simplistic myth of US-is-bad. Scholars such as Mari Matsuda, Richard Delgado, Celina Romany, Berta Esperanza Hernández-Truyol and Elisabeth Iglesias condemn those who praise the black letter of US law while overlooking its brutal realities; yet they then take precisely that approach to non-US legal regimes, such as the standard norms of international human rights law, praising the black-letter norms while ignoring the oppressive politics and histories of many of the powerful countries and institutions behind them. Far from overcoming American ethnocentrism, they thereby recapitulate it. Within an ever more global discourse of human rights, critical theorists can only retain credibility by applying the same realist methods to international and non-US regimes that they demand for US law.
Keywords: civil rights, civil liberties, critical legal theory, critical race theory, jurisprudence, human rights, international law, international human rights law, LatCrit, legal realism, legal theory, multiculturalism, rights discourse
JEL Classification: K1
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation