Russell Vought, Director of the Office of Management and Budget for the Executive Office of the President issued a Memorandum For the Heads of Executive Offices and Agencies on September 4, 2020 that stated that “Executive Branch agencies have spent millions of taxpayer dollars to date ‘training’ government workers to believe divisive, anti-American propaganda.” In relation to the memo, Trump wrote a Tweet stating that he ordered “a purge of critical race theory from Federal Agencies.” These statements are in reaction to an executive order (Establishing a Coordinated Government-wide Initiative to Promote Diversity and Inclusion in the Federal Workforce) that Obama put into place in 2011 that directed agencies to emphasize diversity and inclusion throughout the federal workforce. A few days later, Trump announced another forthcoming executive order to establish a national commission to promote patriotic education, the “1776 Commission.”
As scholars, educators, and members of the UNCG Coalition for Diversity in Language and Culture (CDLC) and the SOE Faculty Access and Equity Committee (FAEC), we are dedicated to working with and advocating for diverse communities. Together, we have provided a response to these executive orders, the push for a patriotic American history curriculum, and the push to defund training aimed at understanding white privilege.
Critical Race Theory (Crenshaw, 2002; Delgado & Stefancic, 2001; Ladson-Billings, 1998; Solórzano 1997, 1998; Yosso, 2005), originally developed by legal scholars, asks us to consider how we can transform the relationships among race, racism, and power, and work toward the liberation of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). The goal of CRT is to better understand the current and historical systemic oppressions towards BIPOC that exist in our society, that is to say how the past proliferates our present across local and global scales. Growing from CRT are other critical theories such as DisCrit, LatCrit, AsianCrit, and TribalCrit. These frameworks unpack how racism is a social construction, and it also illuminates the narratives, experiences, and knowledges of BIPOC. Thus, the objective is not to be divisive, but instead inclusive of those who have been silenced and subordinated in the U.S. CRT, then, provides a way for people to acknowledge and name the ways in which systemic racism exists and perpetuates itself explicitly and implicitly.
We view the attack on CRT as well as the general attack on promoting diversity and inclusion and the fixed notion of what curriculum on American history should be comprised of as a direct threat to all BIPOC. That this framework of theories, which operate to challenge the ways racism is enacted and implicit in society, have been called to be “purged” by the President of the United States, demonstrates the hatred, ignorance, and divisiveness that burns deep in American roots.
We cannot keep quiet and take this sitting down. We call on our members and colleagues, through your own teaching, research, and advocacy, to combat the absurd and problematic attack on CRT and other related work that aims to dismantle racism and white supremacy and promote equity and inclusion in ways that explicitly name institutional power inequities throughout history and today.