ARTICLE 45: Research Methods for Ph. D. Studies: Critical Race Theory

Written by Dr. Hannes Nel


What is the truth?

Just think about it – 29 paradigms, 29 different ways in which the truth can be perceived.

And there are many more that I will not discuss because some of them are not suitable for research purposes. Some are concepts, others are value systems, a third group focus more on applications rather than research.

I mentioned in my previous post that paradigms should help us to achieve meaningful patterns and theories and that we should guard against subjectivity.

Accepting more than twenty-nine ways in which to perceive the truth is already gambling with objectivity, authenticity, validity and accuracy in our research.

If we, moreover, ignore our responsibility to do research in an ethical manner, our theses or dissertations will end up being fictitious novels.

I will discuss critical race theory and how it should be approached in this post.

Critical Race Theory

Critical race theory focuses on the application of critical theory in terms of race.

It objects to the perception of racial power, especially where it is overtly or covertly supported by legislation, which would render it institutionalized.

Institutionalized racism is the structures, legislation, policies, practices and norms resulting in differential access and opportunities between racial groups.

It can manifest itself in any situation where needs exist.

Such needs can be material, psychological, political, technological, social, economic or power needs.

In critical race theory intentional discrimination is resisted on all terrains where people are involved.

For example, universities, schools, employment in the private and public sectors, sport, etc.

Critical race theory favours an aggressive, race-conscious, approach to transformation.

Although the starting point is often simple racial inequality, political and legislative transformation can be even more important objectives.

Critical race theory is often used to combat racial discrimination, facilitate the upliftment and growth of disadvantaged communities, redress historical racial discrimination, etc.

Critical race theory focuses on discrimination of one race against another.

It is not the reserve of any one race, and the victims of discrimination can be a minority or majority racial group.

Critical race theory mostly investigates the achievement of racial emancipation and equality.

It can be addressed in any field of study, although social studies embrace the paradigm the most.

Historical and current incidents of racial discrimination are often used as evidence in support of a research problem, question or hypothesis.

Critical race theory is supported by structuralism.

For example, by investigating how legislation and cultural influences impact on the demography of a community.

In this respect, micro-aggression is often an element of research making use of a critical race theory perception.

Micro-aggression can be found in any community where a certain group might feel anger and frustration because of the way the perceived or real privileged elite threaten them or because of one or more privileges that they have at the expense of the discriminated or that the discriminated are denied.

This can erupt into riots, crime, or any other form of violence.

And, of course, such micro-aggression can become the topic of research.

Critical race theory can also be linked to critical theory, neoliberalism, feminism, romanticism, humanism, post-colonialism and post-structuralism.

Liberalism is in opposition with some of the values of critical race theory because of the former’s favouritism towards the elite, the rich and the noble.

Critical race theory and structuralism are also in opposition because structuralism promotes positions of power, which can have a detrimental effect on human relationships.

Positivism is also in opposition with critical race theory because positivism favours quantitative research while supporters of critical race theory feel that the analysis of numbers strip human interaction of its affective values.

Critical race theory is not always structured.

Although it often investigates legislation and cultural influences, the process can be aggressive and unstructured.

It can even include riotous advocacy campaigns.

Hidden motives can also be present.

Critical race theory is, unfortunately, sometimes misused to achieve political agendas and to oppress minority or even majority groups that are vulnerable.


Critical race theory investigates race-related issues.

It objects to institutionalized racial discrimination.

It often studies situations where needs exist because of the unfair treatment of a racial group.

An aggressive, race-conscious approach to transformation can be favoured.

Any field of study making use of any research method can investigate racial discrimination.

However, social studies predominate.

Micro-aggression is often an element of the research making use of critical race theory.

Critical race theory is supported by structuralism, critical theory, neoliberalism, feminism, romanticism, humanism, post-colonialism and post-structuralism.

Critical race theory is opposed by liberalism, structuralism and positivism.

Criticism against critical race theory include that:

  1. It is not always structured.
  2. Hidden motives can be present.
  3. It is sometimes misused.

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