I have worked with or known some of the best diversity professionals in the industry. After 36 years of crisscrossing the country and the world, I should know a thing or two about the concepts, terms, and ideologies of diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and multiculturalism. That includes the years I was a member of the Diversity Collegium co-founded by the late great Dr. Roosevelt Thomas and Dr. Price Cobbs. Dr. Mary Frances Winters, Kay Iwata, and Julie O'Mara were also my colleagues in the Collegium for many years. We traveled the country meeting on key issues and paved the way for the current crop of DEIB professionals in the US.
And throughout the years, during my Collegium days and beyond, we NEVER designed a training module focused on Critical Race Theory! It may have been discussed but it was NEVER a part of our strategic design.
So…What is the Critical Race Theory?
Critical Race Theory (CRT) is an academic and legal framework created by law experts and scholars in the 1970s and 80s that has blown up into a controversial hot topic around the country. CRT is now tied to educational efforts as either an ideological concept or a threat to the "freedom" of our nation. Despite the naysayers, CRT has never been used as the educational foundation for public school systems around the United States, nor has it been the principal framework used by diversity experts in the country.
Who are some of the "framers" of CRT?
The late Attorney Derrick Bell, while on the faculty of Harvard Law School, was one of the early framers of CRT. Civil Rights advocate, attorney, and academician Kimberlé Crenshaw was also an early scholar who helped shape the concept. They were academic leaders looking at systemic racism from an institutional perspective. They had NO reason to roll out a CRT course for elementary school students.
Is CRT designed for elementary students?
NO! It has NEVER been designed with elementary, middle, or high school students in mind. It principally was confined to exploration in the legal and social justice arenas.
Why is CRT such a controversial topic?
Sadly, right-wing conservative groups have latched on to CRT and are now using it as a wedge issue as they wage culture wars across the United States. They have flipped it and now use messaging to denounce it as a racist ideology promoted by left-wing progressives.
When did the CRT controversy start?
It started under the Trump administration. On September 22, 2020, at the end of his term in office, President Trump signed Executive Order #13950 banning diversity training, CRT "training," gender identity, and sexual orientation training within federal agencies and contractors. I lost business because of that order.
Although the Executive Order was reversed by President Biden, various state legislatures across the US continued to push to ban CRT, diversity, gender identity, and sexual orientation educational efforts, primarily in public schools. Again CRT has never been taught in public schools, yet it has been targeted in various legislative bills across the United States.
What states are targeting anti CRT legislation?
To date, more than 44 states proposed or passed anti-CRT legislation impacting public school systems and job sites in New Hampshire, Texas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Florida, and several others. It started with Florida's ruling called the "Don't Say Gay" law, impacting grades Kindergarten through Third Grade, and bans any specific discussion about gender identity or sexual orientation in the classrooms. It passed the state Senate and was signed by the Governor of Florida on Monday, March 29, 2022. The law went into affect in July 2022
Florida continues to lead in anti CRT legislation that now targets public/state colleges and universities. As of February 2023, Florida House Bill 999/SB 266 is pending in their state legislature. It states the following:
Requires public college and university governing boards to review their institutions for violations of HB 7 or programs that are "based on theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, or privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States and were created to maintain social, political, or economic inequities." Colleges and universities are also prohibited from expending any funds, regardless of source, that promotes or supports a program that violates HB 7, espouses diversity, equity, and inclusion, or promotes political or social activism. All general education courses must be "based on the fundamental truth that all persons are equal before the law and have inalienable rights and may not distort significant historical events or include a curriculum that teaches identity politics, violates [HB 7], or is based on theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, or privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States and were created to maintain social, political, or economic inequities."
In New Hampshire, a pending law prohibits specific discussions about race or sex as mandatory student or employee training. Teachers can lose their license if caught teaching about race, gender identity, or sexual orientation. The bill was slipped in under the state budget without the benefit of the full range of discussion or hearings.
So, where can I learn more about CRT and the fight to reverse the legislation designed to kill it?
Start with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund document about CRT.
Download it here: https://bit.ly/3r7V5QQ
The NAACP Legal Defense Funds articulates it this way:
Critical Race Theory recognizes that racism is more than the result of individual bias and prejudice. It is embedded in laws, policies, and institutions that uphold and reproduce racial inequalities. According to CRT, societal issues like Black Americans' higher mortality rate, outsized exposure to police violence, the school-to-prison pipeline, denial of affordable housing, and the rates of the death of Black women in childbirth are not unrelated anomalies.
Here is an entire webpage I created to help you understand CRT:
Good Book To Read:
Race, Rights, and Redemption: The Derrick Bell Lectures On The Law And Critical Race Theory
Edited by Janet Deward Bell and Vincent M. Southerland
LIVE State by State Update on Anti-CRT GAG Orders
Good YouTube Video To Watch on Right-Wing Groups and Why They Are Fighting Against CRT
Now do your homework, make up your OWN mind and talk to your friends, students, colleagues, or neighbors about WHY you support or denounce CRT. The choice is YOURS.
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Carole Copeland Thomas is a 27 year speaker, trainer and consultant specializing in global diversity, empowerment, multiculturalism and leadership issues.