What is Critical Race Theory?
Let’s start with the basics of critical race theory. “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.” (A Lesson on Critical Race Theory by Janel George) That seems simple enough. If you don’t believe the person who coined the term, believe the institution that necessitated the term. Just because you mention, race does not make it CRT. So, what are the principles related to this verb, CRT?
- Racism is ordinary. It is not a rare occurrence in the United States.
- White-over-color ascendency serves an import purpose; in other words, there is an intentional and strategic element of racial classifications that serves the dominant culture.
- Race is a social construct; racial categorization is a product of social thought and relationships. Race it not a biological reality.
- The dominant society racializes different minority groups at different times, in response to shifting needs such as the labor market.
- Legal storytelling is important. Storytelling reinforces the notion of a unique voice of color. BIPOC people have unique perspectives when it comes to race and racism.
How is Critical Race Theory related to Workplace DEI?
When considering critical race theory, you may wonder what it means for you and your workforce:
- Don’t confuse CRT with workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training. The training you need in your workplace should be closely aligned with the organizational mission, vision, and goals. Don’t let fear, social media, or TV talking head dictate your workplace DEI processes.
- Believe that racism exists. Be honest. Racial categories were created to categorize groups, distribute resources, and manage power. The natural outgrowth of that is racism, the system misuse of power based on race. It doesn’t mean that you are your leaders are racist. Anytime we create systems, some will abuse those systems. Race is a social system.
- Manage privilege and manage your team. Ensure that your workplace systems lean toward equity. Diversity is not your ultimate workplace goal. Reach for an equitable and inclusive environment where all can compete and thrive. You want your best and brightest to believe that they will have equal access to the rewards of hard work if they put in the work.
- Give voice to all your employees. Workplace leaders must understand how to effectively communicate with people from diverse backgrounds and cultural communication styles. Once you begin to listen to those diverse voices, you will inspire creativity and positive workplace change.
Listen, don’t fear what is misunderstood. When we talk about race and identity in the workplace, it is important to understand key terms and phrases. Figure out what those terms mean in your context. Outside fear or lack of understanding should not derail your efforts to create an inclusive workplace culture.
Learn More About CRT
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