Noel Cazenave

Noel Cazenave: “Accusations about teaching ‘critical race theory’ in Connecticut often lack evidence”

Professor Noel Cazenave was cited in the recent Hartford Courant article, "Accusations about teaching 'critical race theory' in Connecticut often lack evidence, used as a vehicle for broader attacks on equity and inclusion."



Recent outcry over critical race theory is a manifestation of white conservative backlash to the racial justice movement that gained surging support in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, said Noel A. Cazenave, a professor of sociology at UConn.

The furor can also be linked to intense condemnation by conservatives of The New York Times’ “1619 Project” — which examines how slavery shaped America’s founding — and the school curriculum it generated in partnership with the Pulitzer Center.

“What we’re seeing today is that no matter what word you use, it’s not going to be acceptable to have a conversation about racism, whether you use the word ‘race,’ ‘critical race theory’ or ‘racism,’” Cazenave said.

As for critical race theory, Cazenave said that its basic assumptions are “the assumptions of systemic racism,” adding that the theory provides a framework for understanding racism as a system of oppression. But critical race theory is also somewhat of a nebulous term, Cazenave said, and has entered the public discourse without a clear definition, thus becoming a vehicle for misinterpretation.

U.S. Anti-Black Racism Course

The Sociology Department is proud to be involved in the University's U.S. Anti-Black Racism Course. This 1-credit course introduces students to foundational history and concepts related to systemic and anti-Black racism.

David Embrick

Modules 1, 3, 9

Noel Cazenave

Module 3

Fumilayo Showers

Modules 1, 3, 9

Marcus Garcia

Course Moderator

Rhys Hall

Course Moderator

Noel Cazenave: “A Community Organizer Takes on White Vigilantism”

Read Noel Cazenave's interview in The New Yorker, A Community Organizer Takes on White Vigilantism by Eliza Griswold.


Noel Cazenave, a professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut and the author of “Killing African Americans: Police and Vigilante Violence as a Racial Control Mechanism,” sees such resistance as part of a long history of white vigilantism. “Racial oppression has always been maintained through violence,” he told me. In the nineteen-fifties and sixties, white Americans posted signs in so-called sundown towns telling Black people that they would be met with violence if they were found outdoors after dark. Cazenave believes that today’s white mobs see Black Lives Matter activists as mounting a challenge to white dominance similar to the one mounted during the civil-rights era. “They’ve been told by Donald Trump that these are the people who are coming to take away their basic value,” he said. “This is a literal invasion.” Although the white groups are extrajudicial, many have sought to align themselves with police. Cazenave finds this unsurprising. “Police and vigilante violence not only have common origins and functions, and not only do they often complement one another, but they are often comprised of the same people,” he said. “Racist neighborhood culture and racist police culture fuel one another in an intense cycle of hatred directed toward those deemed to be racial outsiders.”


Noel A. Cazenave’s Perspective on Political Engagement Among African Americans

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Noel A. Cazenave - Interview on Political Engagement Among African Americans

Ph.D. – Professor of Sociology, University of Connecticut

What accounts for low levels of voter turnout among African Americans?

A major problem is the lack of candidates and platforms that truly articulate our concerns. Having to continuously vote for "the lesser of two evils" is not a great motivator; neither is fear. All too often the only choice we have is to vote AGAINST someone who we fear rather than to vote FOR someone we are actually excited about. That fear-driven strategy did not work for the Democrats in 2016 and it won't work in 2020.

Do voter ID laws disproportionately affect voter turnout for African Americans relative to other groups? 

Yes, of course, they do. That is what they are intended to do, and they work fairly well.

Why are blacks and other minorities underrepresented in political office? For example, there are currently only 3 African American senators and there have only been 4 black governors in U.S. history.

Racially targeted gerrymandering is a major cause here; and, of course, racial bigotry is the major factor.

What strategies have proven effective in increasing voter participation and civic engagement among African-Americans?

Passing laws that make voter registration easy, voter registration drives, and offering dynamic and courageous candidates and platforms that can significantly improve the quality of our lives, would all be helpful.