Recently there was an Executive Order that places on ban on diversity, equity and inclusion training in federal contracts that is based in critical race theory, the idea that racism is systemic and built into every major institution.
The order even begins with quotes from Martin Luther King, that we are to be judged by the content of our character and not by the color of our skin. While few would debate the goal of this statement and unfulfilled promise of America is that we are all equal under the eyes of the law regardless of our race. What has been debated over decades is how do we get there? There are many argue that by continuing to teach about race and racism, it is perpetuating the idea and giving it further perpetuity-essentially we should be color blind.
As a young person that was certainly what I have been taught. And in my day to day life I experienced how I was treated differently because of my race and how my peers were treated differently because of theirs. This caused me to be confused and experience the cognitive dissonance of a dialogue that ignores my reality.
In my first Human Diversity class in university, I learned the terms hegemony, racism, classism, xenophobia and the like and the world began to make sense. Since then I have been a part of diversity, equity and inclusion education of myself and others at every step of my career.
It is my firm belief that you cannot fix problems that you can’t name. And we cannot begin to address anti-Blackness , institutional racism without explicitly naming how institutions have been complicit and continue to perpetuate harm.
I remember being in South Africa and reading the book No Future without Forgiveness which is about the established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission after the fall of Apartheid. The commission’s purpose was to expose the crimes that had been committed during Apartheid and to offer an opportunity for dialogue about the harm that had been caused and reparations to be made. This taught me that there cannot be reconciliation without telling the truth and the truth is that America was founded in genocide and oppression. This truth is not determinate of the future but without acknowledgement there is no starting place to acknowledge the harm done and the reparations to be made in order to move forward.
To heal, we must be truthful. Own what has been the past and determine to do better as a nation and to treat people of color, immigrants, women and other historically oppressed groups with dignity and equity. Naming the problem with is the first step towards addressing it. Addressing it, acknowledging the pain, leads to empathy and empathy towards restoration.
To read the Executive Order click here: whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-combating-race-sex-stereotyping