(Transcript of cartoon.)
In a recent open thread, Fibi writes:
[David Goldberg’s article “The War on Critical Race Theory“] is a long, interesting, but ultimately unpersuasive article. It’s certainly true that many on the right (and the left) don’t map out the different nuances between CRT, “anti-racism,” “wholeness,” etc. That’s not surprising. But the Ur Text of the anti-CRT movement is President Trump’s now rescinded Executive Order banning CRT trainings with Federal contractors. It just so happens that I work for a Federal contractor and got pulled into a compliance review of our D&I trainings after the EO came out. And we barely changed anything. In fact, all of the slides, instructor notes, discussion questions, scenarios were fine. We just had to trim a couple of items from the Resources page (mostly eliminating websites and podcasts for fear that future changes or content would run afoul of the EO). So I certainly don’t agree that the anti-CRT movement calls into question “any mention of race or racism at all.”
I considered quoting Section 2 of the EO here. And while the EO is rescinded it’s basically word for word what’s in the new Florida law. But I think I will just leave the link where it is for those who are inclined to follow. Also, I’m not really weighing in on whether CRT trainings are better or worse than traditional D&I trainings. Just taking issue with the claim that they aren’t easily distinguishable and/or the anti-CRT movement isn’t distinguishing them.
So does the anti-CRT movement make the distinctions Fibi claims they do?
Fibi’s “compliance review” is one anecdote. Here’s another: After being threatened with budget cuts from the Republican-dominated state legislature, Boise State University suddenly suspended 55 courses mid-semester, screwing over hundreds of students, because someone claimed to have a video of a student in one class had been insulted for being white. The video never turned up, and an extensive investigation didn’t find any evidence that the event had ever happened. From FIRE (emphasis mine):
As FIRE previously reported, Boise State suspended all sections of its University Foundations 200 course on March 16, shortly after the state’s joint budget committee proposed a $409,000 cut in the university’s funding as part of lawmakers’ ongoing efforts to contain teaching and activities related to “social justice” and “critical race theory.” At the time, Boise State said it had “been made aware of a series of concerns, culminating in allegations that a student or students have been humiliated and degraded in class on our campus for their beliefs and values.”
This is absolutely a case of anti-“CRT” Republicans pressuring a university into censoring allegedly “CRT” views, without even a hint of distinguishing between “indoctrination” and just teaching about racism and social justice. Which is no surprise – Idaho Republicans are pretty open about wanting to eradicate views they don’t agree with.
Idaho Lt. Governor Janice McGeachin is working on putting together a task force to examine indoctrination in Idaho education and to protect our young people from the scourge of critical race theory, socialism, communism, and Marxism.
“As I have traveled around the state and spoken with constituents and parents, it has become clear to me that this is one of the most significant threats facing our society today. We must find where these insidious theories and philosophies are lurking and excise them from our education system,” Lt. Gov. McGeachin said.
By the way, the University’s attempt to prevent cuts by giving in to the GOP failed; the legislature voted to cut millions from public University budgets to “send a message” about CRT. These people are not being nuanced and careful about who they attack.
Another anecdote, this one directly about the Trump executive order:
Harper is involved with Arts In The Armed Forces (AITAF), a non-profit organization co-founded by Adam Driver that brings free arts programming to active-duty service members, veterans, and military support staff and their families. The actor and AITAF set up a screening of “Malcolm X” for military academies…
Three of the four academies scheduled for the “Malcolm X” event took part in the screening, but one academy did not “for fear of potential consequences of stemming from an Executive Order from the White House.” Harper concluded, “The fact that the film ‘Malcolm X’ could be considered ‘anti-American’ by this administration is very frightening to me.”
One important thing to keep in mind, with anti-CRT laws, is that the decisions will often be made by a principal who is being screamed at by the City’s lawyers to do whatever it takes to avoid even a chance of liability. Especially when the laws are full of ambiguous language, of course the result is some schools will ban anything anti-racist for fear that it might be the dreaded “CRT.”
And the language is ambiguous, in a way that would have given the Trump administration wide latitude to punish disfavored views if a court hadn’t enjoined from enforcing it. From the Urban League’s complaint against Trump’s executive order:
Under the terms of EO 13950, there is no objective way to determine which activities are permitted and which are prohibited, creating a broad chilling effect and inviting unpredictable, uneven, and potentially selective enforcement.
For example, EO 13950 prohibits employers from holding “workplace training” that “inculcates” certain “divisive concepts” in employees. EO 13950 § 4(a)(1). However, the Order never defines “workplace training,” which can occur in many contexts and for many reasons—such as an employee’s onboarding, part of the promotion process, ongoing professional education, or an effort to address workplace conduct issues.
In addition, the Order does not explain, or otherwise define, the prohibited act of “inculcat[ing].” There are no criteria in the Order for a federal contractor or subcontractor to understand whether training needs to reach a certain level of repetition, admonition, and insistence to be deemed to “inculcate” employees or whether, for example, a single training that references a so-called “divisive concept” is enough to trigger the Order.
Nor are the prohibited “divisive concepts” sufficiently defined. For example, the Order prohibits training that “inculcates” the concept that “the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist.” But there is no description of what “fundamentally” racist or sexist means. Under the Order’s prohibitions, it is unclear if explaining the historical context of race or gender inequality (e.g., discussing the Nation’s history of slavery, the Jim Crow laws, the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Liberation Movement, the Stonewall uprising, mass incarceration, pay equity or other topics related to racial injustice, gender discrimination or inequity) and the foundational ways this history shapes present-day manifestations of discrimination and biases, would be considered an assertion that the United States is “fundamentally” racist or sexist. […]
The Order’s prohibition on inculcating “discomfort, guilt, [and] anguish” is similarly inscrutable. The Order apparently prohibits training that includes the view that “any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex.” However, the Order leaves unclear whether any training that leads to feelings of discomfort by virtue of the nature of the subject matter itself, rather than by “inculcation,” is prohibited.
The Order also prohibits the concept that “meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist.” Purported objective measures of merit, such as workplace tests and evaluations, have been used historically to exclude qualified members of protected groups from employment opportunities. The Supreme Court has recognized that the disproportionate impact of these tools of purported meritocracy can undermine equality and fairness in the workplace and can, in fact, violate federal law…. Under the Order, a reasonable employer has no way of knowing whether a seemingly appropriate discussion about the interplay between purportedly “meritocratic” standards and discriminatory impact—even a faithful explanation of the law—may be prohibited “inculcation” of the view of “meritocracy” as “racist.”
The administration’s official guidance about the executive order made it plain that they intended the order to be read expansively, not narrowly.
On September 28, 2020, OMB published a Memorandum entitled “Ending Employee Trainings that Use Divisive Propaganda to Undermine the Principle of Fair and Equal Treatment for All” (“Memorandum”), which provided additional content to EO 13950’s directives. The Memorandum expanded on the Order by highlighting terms, such as “critical race theory,” “white privilege,” “intersectionality,” “systemic racism,” “positionality,” “racial humility,” and “unconscious bias,” as key to identifying the targeted “divisive” diversity training programs.
This Memorandum singled out specific terms and subject matter, such as critical race theory or white privilege, as targets of the Order even though they were not explicitly included in the definition of “divisive concepts” proscribed by the text of the Order. […]
The FAQs provide that “[u]nconscious or implicit bias training is prohibited to the extent it teaches or implies that an individual, by virtue of his or her race, sex, and/or national origin, is racist, sexist, oppressive, or biased, whether consciously or unconsciously.” The FAQs do not explain how a training may “imply” the prohibited concept; nor does it indicate who determines whether there has been such an implication.
So entire subjects are effectively banned. And what’s prohibited is not just the express statements of “divisive” ideas, but anything that, in the Trump administration’s subjective opinion, “implies” a prohibited concept.
Some of the state laws based on Trump’s EO are, remarkably, even worse. For instance, Texas’s anti-CRT law bans any course instruction that requires an “understanding” of the 1619 Project. So teachers aren’t just prohibited from forcing students to agree with the 1619 Project, as some of the law’s proponents claim; they’re effectively enforced from teaching about it at all. (Since it would be impossible to teach something while not trying to get students to understand it).
It also says that if any current controversy is taught, teachers must teach all sides “without giving deference to any one perspective.” That means that a science teacher can’t teach evolution unless they give equal weight to “intelligent design,” or deference to climate change science over denialism, without possibly bring legal consequences down on their school. (But it’s more likely they’ll be ordered not to teach such subjects at all.)
A pro-CRT-ban member of Utah’s board of education provided a list of terms that indicate CRT is in use. Terms on her list include “equity,” “anti-racism,” “systemic racism,” “social justice,” “diversity,” and “inclusion.” Again, imagine the decision being made by a principal while a district lawyer urges her to avoid anything that possibly could lead to liability – and they both have a copy of this list. The results would not be narrow or carefully controlled.
Trump’s executive order was attempted censorship, and so are the state laws based on it. And the anti-CRT movement is not making distinctions; they’re in effect defining “CRT” very broadly to include any left-wing anti-racism views.