Critical Race Theory As Theological Challenge

A study of new theories of racism and white supremacism as a challenge to constructive and systematic theologies. Readings focus on theorists of “race” and racism, with special attention to the U.S. contexts of “white studies” and issues in Asian American, African American, and Latina/o studies. Theological readings concentrate on contemporary theologians explicitly addressing issues in U.S. ethnicity and white racism, and offers opportunities for students to read in the intellectual traditions of Latino/a and Chicano/a, African-American, Asian-American and Arab-American theorist. White dissenters to white supremacism will also receive important attention.


Analysis of the antagonism spawned by white racism, i.e. the “routinized outcome of practices that create or reproduce hierarchical social structures based on essentialized racial categories” privileging whiteness (Howard Winant). The largely European and U.S.-American construct of a white race is a “cultural-political signifier” (Denise Ferreira da Silva) that promotes a pervasive opposition and antagonism between whites and peoples “of color,” who are seen by white-dominant societies, demeaningly, as affectable (not self-determining), colonizable (not colonizing), often feminized or seen as deviant sexually (not appropriately masculinized), exploitable and suffering (not primarily the recipients of wealth, opportunity and empowerment).

The arts of racialized communities, though, have re-imagined whiteness as “white terror,” and promoted new symbolics of color for liberating spirit – from U.S. black theologies and Steve Biko’s South Africa, to the poetry, music, subversive knowledge, popular rhetoric of the Afro-Asian-Indigenous Caribbean and Latin America, as well as from the dreams and discourses of Asia (East, Central, West), Africa, Latino/a and Indigenous peoples in the U.S.

Social movements are thus catalyzed to challenge white racism, producing new structures for empowerment. The challenge to forge coalitions among peoples of color against white racism (from different religions, secular groups and alternative spiritualities) remains formidable. Nevertheless, there remain successes, with struggle, that portend racial overthrow and hope.