Commentary: Just What is Critical Race Theory and What's it Doing in a Progressive Field like Public Health?

Ethn Dis. 2018 Aug 9;28(Suppl 1):223-230. doi: 10.18865/ed.28.S1.223. eCollection 2018.


Gloria Ladson-Billings cautiously promotes the use of Critical Race Theory (CRT) to address racism's contribution to educational disparities. Nearly a decade ago, we issued a similar call to the multidisciplinary field of public health. Public health touts its progressive roots and focus on equity, but do those efforts draw on CRT? To answer this question, we define CRT, describe its origin in the field of law, and review the ways its use has grown in the field of public health. Public health interventions and policies rely heavily on evidence; therefore, we re-introduce the semi-structured research method we developed to facilitate empirical application of CRT, ie, the Public Health Critical Race Praxis (PHCRP).

Keywords: Critical Race Theory; Public Health; Public Health Critical Race Praxis; Racism.

Publication types

  • Editorial

MeSH terms

  • Education*
  • Humans
  • Psychology, Social
  • Public Health*
  • Racism* / prevention & control
  • Racism* / psychology
  • Social Behavior
  • Social Theory