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What is critical race theory? It is a movement to make racism socially acceptable. Critical race theory supports the logic that all whites are born racists and oppressors by nature. They are to be viewed as a collective threat to non-white people and beyond redemption. This sentiment is already infecting the American workplace via racial sensitivity and diversity trainings. Despite the obvious controversy, such trainings are being accepted as just and fair and at an alarming pace across Corporate America. At best, critical race theory is counterproductive and at worst it destroys the fabric of society by prohibiting community. To apply its tenets to the workplace is to commission a slow rot to your enterprise.
How does Critical Race Theory enter the workplace? Typically through “racial sensitivity” and diversity training. Companies implement such trainings for one of two reasons:
- To prevent lawsuits.
- To create an inclusive environment where all employees are valued, respected and welcomed within the employee and management ranks.
I like to think that #2 is the primary driver of such initiatives but I suspect its really about #1. In this hyper-polarized political atmosphere and added attention to race due to WOKE culture, companies are rightly concerned about the potential of an offended mob coming for their business. So, out of an abundance of caution, they quickly check the box of “social responsibility” to prevent lawsuits and leftist outrage. However in that pursuit of short term solace, they ignore the possible long-term consequences. What happens the day after you implement diversity training based on critical race theory? Are things better or are they worse? More often than not, according to some studies anyway, things get worse.
To be clear, I am NOT against diversity training or any measures designed to make a workplace more inclusive. I am a fervent proponent of equal opportunity. However, I do resist critical race theory whenever possible and have added to my personal research on the matter.
Three Reasons Why You Should Ban Critical Race Theory From Your Workplace
1) You should ban critical race theory from your workplace because people will feel alienated and morale will drop.
Why? Diversity-related training programs often celebrate the history, culture and contributions of minorities to the American way of life; where as white people are told to be “less white.” (Which was the case in recent diversity training at Coca-Cola.) Being less white means to be less oppressive, less ignorant and more humble. White people are then instructed to listen and validate the grievances of minorities and explain how they personally contributed to it by virtue of them being born white. (Which was the case in a recent Disney diversity training.)
As a result of this type of training, the white people walk away feeling the they themselves, their culture, their perspectives and interests are not valued at the institution – certainly not as much as those of minority team members — reducing their morale and productivity. As a result, the white people are looking to leave the company as soon as they can. And on the other side of the spectrum, minorities have to wonder if they have been denied opportunities and privileges inside the companies because of their race; and not their individual merits.
2) You should ban critical race theory from your workplace because it will destroy your teams
How can anyone who is white engage with a minority co-worker after a diversity training based on critical race theory? They will feel like they have to walk on eggshells for fear of being called a racist due to a microaggression that they didn’t know they were projecting. This gives the impression that the minorities in the company are fragile, easily offended. Such being the case, its less likely that they will want to build a close working relationship with them. So, forget about a strong team dynamic because one set of people is fearing oppression and always on guard against racism (which according to CRT, racism is an ever-present reality) and another group trying not to risk their jobs and personal reputations over some misunderstood word, deed or gesture.
3) You should ban critical race theory from your workplace because it will contribute to a hostile work environment
Now add to that the anxiety that will likely breed in that atmosphere and you have the building blocks of a hostile workplace environment. Imagine these thoughts going on in the office after a series of new diversity initiatives. Why didn’t I get the raise? Why aren’t I leading the project? Was it because my boss is white and they are oppressing me because I’m black? And why did the manager promote David over me even though I’m more experienced? Was it a political promotion to meet a racial quota? If so, that’s unfair but I cannot afford to leave this job. How can I expect to move up the career ladder here if I’m the wrong color?
Resources on these points (HT Real Clear Science):
- Anand, Rohini & Mary-Frances Winters (2008). “A Retrospective View of Corporate Diversity Training from 1964 to the Present.” Academy of Management Learning & Education 7(3): 356-72.
- Dover, Tessa w/ Brenda Major & Cheryl Kaiser (2016). “Members of High-Status Groups Are Threatened by Pro-Diversity Organizational Messages.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 62: 58-67.
- Plaut, Victoria et al. (2011). “’What About Me?’ Perceptions of Exclusion and Whites’ Reactions to Multiculturalism.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 101(2): 337-53.
- Rios-Morrison, Kimberly w/ Victoria Plaut & Oscar Ybarra (2010). “Predicting Whether Multiculturalism Positively or Negatively Influences White Americans’ Intergroup Attitudes: The Role of Ethnic Identification.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 36(12): 1648-61.
- Sanchez, Juan & Nohora Medkik (2005). “The Effects of Diversity Awareness Training on Differential Treatment.” Group & Organization Management 29(4): 517-36.
As further evidence of the detrimental effects of critical race theory, check out this video. In it Dr. Karlyn Borysenko recently interviews Jennifer Friend, a licensed clinical social worker in private practice in the Washington D.C. area about her experiences with critical race theory. What made this video so compelling to me was when Borysenko cross referenced Friend’s experience against her doctoral dissertation on workplace bullying. It was quite illuminating to see how diversity training (based on CRT) had the following effects:
- Anxiety attacks.
- Sleep disturbances.
- Feeling of isolation.
- Team dynamics destroyed.
- Reluctance to self-expression.
Click here to view the interview on YouTube and click here for Jennifer Friend’s workplace to strategy for pushing back against CRT based diversity training.
And here is a seemingly unrelated bit of data from a new McKinsey report which highlights the changes in the kinds of skills companies are focusing on while the pandemic continues to loom. “About 39% said interpersonal and empathy skills, roughly double the share that said this in 2019.”
One More Reason To Ban Critical Race Theory From Your Workplace
Hmm… When I did a search for “interpersonal” on Indeed, I get 873,208 jobs (at this writing). A search for “empathy” returns 77,852 jobs (at this writing). I find this very interesting because critical race theory speaks against seeing people as individuals; forcing instead a focus on relegating people to groups with certain attributes. Such being the case, how can workers see people and therefore empathize with them and strike up an interpersonal connection when it is pre-determined who they are by virtue of their race. In other words, this is another example of how critical race theory impedes business progress. One person who would agree with that is Peter Bregman of Psychology Today. He makes the argument that communication training is more effective than diversity training because it encourages the perception of people as individuals and not groups. To quote:
Categories are dehumanizing. They simplify the complexity of a human being. So focusing people on the categories increases their prejudice. The solution? Instead of seeing people as categories, we need to see people as people. Stop training people to be more accepting of diversity. It’s too conceptual, and it doesn’t work. Instead, train them to do their work with a diverse set of individuals. Not categories of people. People.
Teach them how to have difficult conversations with a range of individuals. Teach them how to manage the variety of employees who report to them. Teach them how to develop the skills of their various employees.
And while teaching them that, help them resist the urge to think about someone as a gay person, a white man, a black woman, or an Indian. Also, help them to resist the urge to think about someone as “just like me”—that’s a mistake too.
Move beyond similarity and diversity to individuality. Help them see John, not as a gay, white man, but as John. Yes, John may be gay and white and a man. But he’s so much more than that.
I find his take on the matter intriguing and would love to see further research comparing the efficacy of the two trainings. On its face though, it does sound right to me to treat people as people and not as a group of racists (as white people are often portrayed) or as a group of victims (blacks, especially). If for no other reason, I would support this approach as an experiment. Maybe your enterprise should as well.