Why Did Trump Ban Diversity Equity & Inclusion Education for Federal Employees?
Trump has banned Critical Race Theory (CRT) based Diversity Equity & Inclusion programs for federal employees. It has been thought to be “racist” and “un-American.”
I believe it would be overly simplistic to assume that a change of president would magically make CRT understandable to the masses. Yes, we (the educated far-left) have concluded that privilege blinds and keeps individuals from embracing CRT, from awakening or changing. But I fear that this is a much more profound misunderstanding.
So my question is this- how did CRT get so profoundly misunderstood by the Right-Wing? I think it’s an important question to ask because none of this will matter if it doesn’t make sense to the ones who need to understand. We need everyone on board to co-create an alternative system that works for all of us.
The answer may lie in the theory’s fundamental disagreement with classic liberalism. (I will not elaborate because even I wanted to yawn when I recalled these things from my college years).
Here is what I think is the other problem might be:
CRT is a beautiful and enormously complex academic social-sciences theory. It has been developed for 40 years in academia! It requires systemic thinking, understanding social science, social psychology, the unconscious mind, etc. In the 90s, I studied it as a Sophmore in college for a full year before applying it to personal leadership and social transformation. It has informed my work in social action, organizational consulting, and psychotherapy in so many ways for 25 years. I have also had to regularly update myself on newer concepts and vocabulary over the years.
But what happens when we try to squeeze the complexities of CRT in a 3-hour DE&I workshop for an organization? To add to the issue, most employees are not attending these classes out of their own volition. It is a job requirement.
We introduce awareness-building like the privilege walk exercise, the concept of unconscious bias, systemic oppression, intersectionality, inter-cultural competencies, etc. I have facilitated these learning experiences in the hopes that awareness would propel social and organizational change.
Some folks get it on a sense level right away and feel relieved that there is a vocabulary for lived experiences of oppression. Some folks get lost in the jargon. Some do not think systemically and can’t go beyond the plain meaning of covert racism. Some view consequences as a result of personal choice rather than a systemic outcome. Some end up still not understanding the difference between ‘equity’ and ‘equality’ and insist that we are all ‘the same.’ Some understand but are overwhelmed with guilt and shame, and then possibly go into denial and get defensive. And some walk away thinking that the DE&I training itself is ‘racist.’ The learning curve has always been different because there is diversity, there are inequities, and psychological safety is never a given.
Our message isn’t working with the individuals who need to hear it the most. So what do we do from here? At a time where both sides of the political spectrum have determined the other is ‘racist’, divisions have torn us apart and it feels as though the fabric of our collective humanity is falling apart at the seams; can we still return from the brink? Is there hope?
So I return to the question, how do we unhook from the current system of oppression, restore justice, and co-develop a new system that works for all of us? How do we do it when not everyone gets CRT in a 3-hour workshop? Would it be overly reductionistic to boil it down to the conclusion that the right-wing is racist, classist, holding onto privilege? What if the situation was way more nuanced and even human? And why does CRT seem racist to the right? How did that happen? Heck, what if CRT isn’t the best way to explain things to the Right?
My sense is for our DE&I industry to explore new ways to influence. We cannot give up innovating education because someone didn’t ‘get it.’ The current system is designed for most to NOT to get it. So maybe CRT doesn’t have to be the only way. Perhaps there can be many roads to our goal. I find it hard to believe that every person on the other end of the political spectrum is too privileged to understand or want to change. Because I swear that even a 5-year old gets systemic oppression on a sense level. So, maybe we have over-complicated this message? We need to keep beating the system and expand our possibilities. How do we uphold, continue to give language to, and amplify the lived experiences of oppression beyond CRT? And how do we influence to get to the change we desire?
We cannot afford to limit ourselves to what we have currently done because Black Lives Matter, Trans Rights are Human Rights, and injustices have become beyond intolerable. We need to restore justice, salvage our humanity, and deal with our collective climate emergencies. For this reason alone, we need to get back to the drawing board. Our unified agreement with the Right-Wing on dismantling the system and building a new one is our only ticket to liberation.