Critical Race Theory can have a monumental impact on your company or organization. The question becomes how can you introduce this important concept to your organization so that it provokes serious discourse. We will examine the practices and pitfalls of introducing Critical Race Theory (CRT) to your organization or company. First, it’s important to make sure we are clear on exactly what Critical Race Theory is, how it came to be and what it means for our society.
Critical Race Theory is a social movement founded on civil rights. It examines the intersection of American law and ethnicity while using liberal racial justice approaches to inspire change. So, how do you introduce CRT to your organization without being offensive? Here is what you need to know.
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Critical Race Theory (otherwise known as CRT) can be an explosive topic in many contexts, not to mention the workforce. Many misrepresent the idea, which makes the term even more volatile. CRT has since gained a bad reputation in many groups. Yet, it remains vital to progressive DEI initiatives and must be treated as such. While still controversial, the theory can fuel positive change in most organizations.
Critical Race Theory is a legal term. So, clarifying this point can help defuse any contention. Remind people that Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw introduced the name, then scholars expanded upon it in the 1980s.
In fact, the American Bar Association defines Critical Race Theory as;”CRT is not a diversity and inclusion “training” but a practice of interrogating the role of race and racism in society that emerged in the legal academy and spread to other fields of scholarship. Crenshaw—who coined the term “CRT”—notes that CRT is not a noun, but a verb. It cannot be confined to a static and narrow definition but is considered to be an evolving and malleable practice. It critiques how the social construction of race and institutionalized racism perpetuate a racial caste system that relegates people of color to the bottom tiers. CRT also recognizes that race intersects with other identities, including sexuality, gender identity, and others. CRT recognizes that racism is not a bygone relic of the past. Instead, it acknowledges that the legacy of slavery, segregation, and the imposition of second-class citizenship on Black Americans and other people of color continue to permeate the social fabric of this nation. ”
Try not to confuse CRT with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs. It is not a training course you can take and finish quickly. Instead, understanding the concept requires an ongoing cycle of analysis, reflection, and adaptation. People should think of CRT as a verb, not a noun. That’s because it’s an action and not a fixed idea.
Critical Race Theory involves carefully looking at the effects of racial injustice on modern society and those within it. The theory explores what it means to live with institutions and systems that uphold racism in society.
Also, Crenshaw does not confine Critical Race Theory to one identity, such as African Americans, Native Americans, or Asian Americans. It’s is a valuable tool for evaluating the experiences of Asian, Indigenous, Latino, and Black people within U.S. communities. Contrary to popular belief, CRT considers a broad spectrum of identities, including sexual identity and gender.
DID YOU KNOW: The American Bar Association has officially defined CRT. So, you may legally apply these ideas to DEI programs in your company unless otherwise stated by organizational policy.
There have been countless attempts to see race as a feature of biology instead of personality or ability. But many people have contradicting ideas that perpetuate racial stereotypes. CRT teaches that each race is significant and empowered without biological barriers. Meanwhile, science rejects the notion that race has any biological significance. The idea of racial difference is merely an outdated social construct that no longer benefits society.
CRT acknowledges that racism is perpetuated based upon conditioned racial prejudices. Different parts of society, such as the legal system, feed the cycle of violence and despair with outdated processes. So, systematic racism bolsters existing beliefs and perpetuates the problem. Arguments that racism is coincidental to the situation are questionable. Racism appears to be the natural outcome of a societal equation designed to produce those exact results.
Critical Race Theory sheds light on common fallacies about racism. For example, police officers used unlawful deadly force on George Floyd in 2020. Many stated that his death resulted from “bad apples” in the Minnesota justice system. But CRT demonstrates how the events were not an anomaly.
CRT proves that racism is inevitable because of the current societal structure of America. Meanwhile, no single individual or group owns it. The concept reveals social constructs that separate people based on biological features instead of more appropriate descriptors. And it shows how such fallacies contributed to slavery and racial injustices throughout U.S. history.
Some claim that American society is based on a meritocracy. While perhaps a meritocracy would be ideal, the argument is not. A meritocracy supposes that the process of selecting candidates is based on merit alone. It is entirely fair and unbiased. But nobody can be completely impartial. Plus, denying our country’s suppressed racism can make a legitimate meritocracy impossible.
Denial of systematic racism disregards the impact of the privileged majority who receive neverending opportunities to advance. Meanwhile, the gap between those with privilege and those without it widens the divide. So, CRT rejects the idea of “color blindness.” The ideals must be discussed to fairly serve underrepresented communities.
Denial of racial injustices and their impact on people is irresponsible and not backed by legitimate research. Rebuttals ignore diversity and overshadow the human experience. The behavior pattern is therefore harmful to a productive society. That’s because it erases cultural significance and hides what does not fit within the dominant culture’s worldview.
CRT rejects the above premises. While many have moved the conversation from race to other factors, Critical Race Theory focuses on the bigger picture. And those leading the movement understand how mindful consultation is central to finding a solution.
American academia did not use lived experience data in past research. So, most accounts were considered anecdotal instead of official evidence. However, Critical Race Theory says that traditional data collection methods miss essential insights on the realities of blackness in America. Current methods fail to appreciate the cultural depth of black communities. But CRT includes lived experience and storytelling as meaningful data.
Introducing Critical Race Theory to your company can be highly beneficial. The concepts of CRT are vital to a productive and diverse work environment. So, create a safe space for racially marginalized employees to express cultural differences and explore their place in the community. HINT: Make it a place that doesn’t require “code-switching.”
Comfortable employees are more likely to become valuable members of an efficient team. Establishing trust and demonstrating respect for individualism or national pride can breed a stronger sense of community. Thus, CRT concepts aim to create a professional atmosphere that appreciates cultural and lifestyle diversities.
Making room for all expressions of identity is crucial to fostering an inclusive workplace. But first, you must take steps to address your group’s challenges. Compare your current DEI programs with the CRT approach. Then explore Critical Race Theory to examine and extricate the hidden oppression in your organization.
When CRT meets your DEI efforts, it paves the way to the intersectionality of new ideas. However, the concept requires a moral inventory of the past and present. Plus, employees must understand how past events can affect the present situation. Examining the stain of slavery and American racism is challenging through the lens of privilege and complacency. But in theory, your company can open doors of opportunity to discuss touchy topics and misguided ideas.
TIP: Remain open to your employee’s concerns and pay attention to how they react to the systematic racism at work. Then use the information to improve your DEI approach.
Talking about Critical Race Theory in the workplace is no simple feat. It needs care and patience to defuse such an explosive topic. CRT has received mixed reviews, and rightfully so. But CRT landed on everyone’s radar when over 300 DEI programs were canceled across the country. Meanwhile, former U.S. President, Donald Trump, called the theory “divisive,” which launched a debate between him and the current POTUS, Joe Biden.
President Biden officially rebutted the comments made by former President Trump’s campaign. However, Critical Race Theory can be somewhat discordant among different racial communities. As each sector strives for more equality, some unexpected issues might arise. For example, you can’t elevate one race without deflating another. So, it seems that both presidents were correct.
The key is to create an atmosphere that invites discussion instead of contention. But some governors call CRT “state-sanctioned racism” because of its focus on ethnicity over merit. They argue that exposing racism without adequate and equitable solutions is irresponsible. And it is. So, try to discuss the facts of American history instead. Critical Race Theory should never be about shaming others.
Focus on the institutions and systems of racism rather than humiliating individuals who aren’t directly responsible or aware of the situation. Be compassionate to those involved in the conversation. Let the theory prove itself by evaluating the dividing factors among us. Then use it to pave a path for new ideas and more mindful interactions. Introducing Critical Race Theory to your organization requires is a hands-on approach to determine solutions that work for all cultures.
CRT implementation is central to understanding racism and changing the systems that uphold it. So, create a supportive and equitable workplace that relies on employee participation and compassionate leadership. Discussing Critical Race Theory in the workplace does not always lead to drama.
You can take steps to lead a constructive conversation that yields positive results. These three simple steps will help you start:
Critical Race Theory is a controversial topic in the media and around dinner tables all over America. That means some people may come into work with a skewed understanding of the term. So, the first step to starting a conversation about CRT in your organization is making sure that everyone is on the same page. And try to give everyone a chance to share their perspectives in an open and honest forum.
Also, use your resources to demystify the theory and anchor it to current events. Or talk about the definition and how it pertains to workplace policies. Bring value to the conversation with facts and statistics and offer research or suggestions to those who want to know more.
Conversations about CRT are essential to increasing productivity in any progressive company. Yet, this type of conversation must start at the beginning. Your organization’s leaders must actively erase racism within the company. Otherwise, you will find it challenging to solve interracial discrepancies.
Change requires participation from everyone on the roster. While exchanging ideas is vital to societal change, legislation and leadership are essential for widespread transformation. Critical Race Theory depends on individuals to remain a successful movement.
One of the best ways to initiate a conversation about Critical Race Theory is to start an Employee Resource Group (ERG). Dedicate it to open discussions about racism and systemic oppression. The best way to foster constructive criticism about such a volatile topic is to remove the fuse.
Include everyone in the conversation. Then allow for the free exchange of competing ideas. Remember, Critical Race Theory is still just a theory. So, implementing the ideals may require unforeseen adaptations. Without an open forum, practical solutions and helpful ideas go unspoken. And unshared concerns can create tension in the workplace.
NOTE: There’s always room for progress in your organization. If employees have a safe space for challenging discussions, they’re more likely to express compassion for others.
Critical Race Theory demonstrates our country’s need for closer examination of societal norms. And discussing CRT in the workplace can help people feel valued in your company. The success of your DEI programs depends on whether you address controversial issues or ignore them for the sake of peace.
Try to address everyone’s concerns because Critical Race Theory is not supposed to be divisive. Competing ideas should fortify communities with insights and compassion. Meanwhile, don’t expect individuals to immediately change their views. Let information and conversation change their minds. Then analyze the issues in your organization to find progressively professional solutions.
About the Author
K. Edwin Bryant is a highly respected senior pastor, professor and academic, published author, and corporate strategist with a passion to advocate for underrepresented communities.
Dr. Bryant has a Ph.D. from Macquarie University, Sydney, AU in Ancient History: New Testament and Early Christianity. Currently, Bryant is the COO of Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International, Senior Pastor and CEO of Dayton, Ohio’s Mount Pisgah Church, chairman of the Board for Tehillah Music Group, and an adjunct professor of the New Testament & Early Christianity.
He uses his leadership and influence to pry open spaces of white privilege and create pathways of equality and belonging for the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities.
In Dr. Bryant’s book ChaRIOT: The New Cultural Conversation, he confronts difficult conversations to help non-blacks reinterpret public responses to oppression imposed on and experienced by the black community.
Dr. Bryant currently resides outside of Dayton Ohio with his wife and children. When he’s not working on a multitude of projects or catching up on trending events; you might find him watching Netflix (especially the Blacklist) or hitting the piano inspired by artists such as Robert Glasper, Moonchild, and Corey Henry.