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Guest opinion: A counter to Utah political officials who can’t grasp the meaning of CRT

By Warner Woodworth - | Jul 1, 2021

Brigham Young University is dealing with an intellectual debate about Critical Race Theory (CRT), a discussion sweeping America.

I rejoiced when campus administrators approved requests allowing a new campus Committee on Race, Equity & Belonging (CoREB) to carry out a 63-page study that was released in February 2021. The years of denying campus racial problems are now exposed through research containing nearly 20,000 observations about how minorities are treated on campus. To speak out, claimed one committee member, took honesty and courage. Hopefully, improvements for campus minorities will increase, supplemented by growing efforts from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to improve its own race relations with Black people and their institutions across the country.

Yet on May 19, 2021, Utah legislators met to determine how they could ban CRT from public education. A hundred percent of Republicans voted to reject CRT, most being unable to articulate what it even might be. But they don’t want Utah’s children exposed to such “dangerous views.” It’s a travesty. More public education that informs our state’s children about racism, privilege and justice are long overdue.

Currently, naïve policymakers in conservative states that still harbor the Ku Klux Klan, Proud Boys and others, reject Critical Race Theory without the slightest bit of understanding. They hold imaginary fears about corporate diversity training, biased news media reporting, and university bureaucracies devoted to enforcing education about U.S. history and 400 years of Black oppression. They seek to either ignore facts, or simply want to look to a better future, letting bygones be bygones.

Thank goodness I’ve had the privilege to work with scholars in business schools and management departments that have taught courses on racism, business discrimination, women in management, and multiple diversity training programs to thousands of MBA and other students who graduated and then worked to reduce corporate oppression of minorities in Fortune 500 corporations. Yet business still has a long way to go.

Meanwhile, CRT is perceived by some Utahns as antithetical to American culture. Defenders and justifiers of U.S. racism cling to their assumptions that only the human heart can change racist communities, a fallacious assertion. Acknowledging the destructive aspects of racism that, according to CRT, are institutionalized and systemically used to “keep Black people in their place,” continues to be a traditional American value. One needing to change. Redesigning organizational structures to obliterate the exploitation of Black, brown, Asian and other oppressed groups in American society will be necessary for building real social justice.

Maybe there are signs of change. Recently here in Utah, NBA superstar Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz has begun using his clout as a high-profile athlete to push for social justice reforms. He and other players are forming a new “Social Justice Coalition” with not just players, but coaches and NBA owners. The group seeks to influence politicians across the nation to develop new bills and policies supporting more education about Black realities, along with new crises. They aim to persuade the U.S. Congress and state legislatures to pass legislation on voting rights laws and police reform. CRT will be a focus of their agenda.

In my work as a professor at multiple institutions of higher education, I generally sought to have a healthy approach for discourse and debate. My humble opinion is that today we would do well to think deeply about racist aspects of American culture, see those that are inappropriate, and think through whether critical attitudes against CRT are motivating our objections. Tearing down the pyramids of injustice needs to accelerate.

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