Trump and the Criticism of Critical Race Theory

The Trump administration has banned tax payer funded training on Critical Race Theory (CRT) for federal employees. Which begs the question, where were you when the world stopped turning? More on this later.

CRT is the view that the law and legal institutions are inherently racist and that race is a construct conceived and used by white people to further their economic, financial, social, and political interests at the expense of people of color.

Following this path, racial inequality emerges from the social, economic, and legal differences between “races” to maintain elite white interests, thus giving rise to poverty and criminality in many minority communities.

The result of all of this is an ingrained racism that is seeped into the fabric and system of American society. What is more, the individual racist need not exist to note that institutional racism is pervasive in the dominant culture. In summary, existing power structures are based on white privilege and white supremacy, which perpetuates the marginalization of people of color.

On Friday, September 4th, a memorandum was released that ordered Federal agencies to stop teaching CRT, among other aspects of anti-racism. From their lens:

“These types of “trainings” not only run counter to the fundamental beliefs for which our Nation has stood since its inception…”

They are right. Our Nation has believed, fundamentally, that America is the land of equal opportunity. That everyone is afforded the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That all men are created equal. Anti-racism and CRT training do run counter to these beliefs. So did legalized slavery and segregation — both of which were prevalent long after the ink went dry on the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. So does the CURRENT inequality and inequity that benefits white people over Blacks and African American’s.

“…but they also engender division and resentment within the Federal workforce.”

They are wrong. Diversity and inclusion training does not engender division and resentment within the Federal workforce. We are not products of our environment, we are products of how we respond to it. That said, their underlying message is accurate. I was a Senior Executive in the federal government who ran Diversity and Inclusion, Human Resources, and Training and Development organizations. I can tell you firsthand that a large percentage of the workforce was not hip to training and development focused on diversity, inclusion, bias, and equal opportunity. They saw it as divisive, counter to the mission, and unproductive. Of course, it could have been uniting and productive if the attendees were focused on improving diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging. Alas, they were not.

Such are the reasons why CRT and anti-racism training are so important. We are not a country of equal opportunity until all of our citizens have equal access to those opportunities. Equal access does not occur simply because it is written into a document like the Civil Rights Act. Can we see this? Are we willing to open our eyes to the facts that underlie the premise of CRT? To answer these questions, let’s go back to the definitions and backdrops I introduced at the beginning of this piece.

Critical Race Theory (CRT) is the view that the law and legal institutions are inherently racist and that race is a construct conceived and used by white people to further their economic, financial, social, and political interests at the expense of people of color.

The words “and used” and “at the expense of people of color” could imply ill intent to people who see themselves as anything but a racist. Except, if you actually read the entirety of the above statement, it doesn’t imply intent. What it is saying is that the laws and legal institutions are inherently racist and that white people conceived (past tense) race. No one who admits to the existence of legalized slavery and segregation would deny that laws and legal institutions were anti-Black. CRT simply points out that an extension of these and other outcomes of an anti-Black agenda have extended into latter day America. Cause and effect.

Following this path, racial inequality emerges from the social, economic, and legal differences between “races” to maintain elite white interests, thus giving rise to poverty and criminality in many minority communities.

Again, the words “to maintain elite white interests” are a hard pill to swallow for those who see themselves as anything but a racist though they rarely, if ever, argue the “rise to poverty and criminality in many minority communities”. Which begs the question, what has led to the acknowledged rise? Cause and effect.

The result of all of this is an ingrained racism that is seeped into the fabric and system of American society. What is more, the individual racist need not exist to note that institutional racism is pervasive in the dominant culture. In summary, existing power structures are based on white privilege and white supremacy, which perpetuates the marginalization of people of color.

In what is easily the most difficult aspect of CRT to acknowledge, the words “an ingrained racism…” put people on edge. So do the terms “white privilege” and “white supremacy”, even as the “marginalization of people of color” is inarguable. It is important, dare I say Critical for white people to be able to distinguish white supremacy as an intent versus white supremacy as an outcome. Again, cause and effect.

CRT challenges the oversimplified notions behind life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It draws a straight line from the sins of our past to the systemic racial oppression that exists today. It highlights the reality that so long as whites have always been able to live free and accumulate wealth while other people were forced to enable it, there will never truly be equality. Even as Blacks and African American’s see increases in income, access, and opportunity, so do whites. A living proof of this is the ever increasing wealth gap.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Seven words that may do more harm than good in that they influence a false sense of freedom and opportunity for all.

The current administration would have you believe that CRT is a sham — anti-racism too. Which begs the question, what are they administering? To answer this, we need to unpack some more quotes from their memo.

“For example, according to press reports, employees across the Executive Branch have been required to attend training’s where they are told that “virtually all White people contribute to racism” or where they are required to say that they “benefit from racism.”

They are administering fear and doubt. If you are white and you tire of people telling you that you contribute to racism, don’t worry; that ends now. If this training is allowed to continue, you will be ostracized, made to be the enemy of all that is wrong in the world. No worries. We have put an end to the madness. You don’t benefit from racism, you benefit from hard work, ingenuity, intelligence, perseverance.

There is a seedy, racist message herein as well: If you find yourself on the wrong side of poverty and crime, it is because you are not hard working, intelligent, or strong. You are weak and lazy.

Sigh…

However, we cannot accept our employees receiving training that seeks to undercut our core values as Americans and drive division within our workforce.

This quote perpetuates the notion that the training seeks to undercut core values when it truly intends to illuminate them — to put a spotlight on them. After all, if the core values are so good, why are outcomes so bad for Blacks and African American’s?

What the current resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue would have us believe is that training can divide us. The fact is, only we can divide us and by pointing to training, we are really just negating our own personal responsibility in all of this. The federal government. Public sector organizations. Non-profits. Each of these industries have diversity and inclusion training that focuses on anti-racism and CRT. I know because I’ve taught over 200 CRT courses across all three sectors.

In every situation, there are people sitting in the room and gritting their teeth. They don’t like the implications of CRT. They don’t like to stare down the realities of inequity and inequality. They don’t like to admit that we haven’t fully addressed the impacts of legalized racism and segregation. They don’t want where someone else gains and they conceivably lose.

The good news is, this memo isn’t a world turner nor is it a suppressor of change. It is more of the same from an elected official who has officially run out of ways to stay relevant. Change is coming. Starting in early November through inauguration in January and onward. We are here. CRT is here. Anti-racism is here. Everything else is a temporary and inconsequential distraction.

Certified Master Facilitator / Certified Diversity Executive / Award-winning leader in empowerment and equality.

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