You are invited to join me and my Master of Public Administration students at the University of Central Florida for a two-part public conversation about Critical Race Theory (CRT). These conversations are part of a series I launched with my students in fall 2020. We focused then on institutional racism and developing strategies to identify and address it in public services. In spring 2021, we focused on COVID-19 vaccine participation and developing strategies to help people feel more comfortable getting a vaccine.
With these conversations, we focus on another issue that has been the focus of significant division in communities throughout the United States: Critical Race Theory. What is it? Should it be taught to children in schools? In universities? To professionals as part of workplace diversity training? Protests have erupted on both sides of the question, and government council and school board meetings have been forced to take a side. State government leaders and federal government leaders have taken sides, either supporting appropriate teaching and training, or banning it entirely.
For background on the issue, see: What is critical race theory? - The Washington Post
These conversations will not be a shouting match. We start with the assumption (observation really) that our communities are divided, and division hurts us. It makes us less able to care for each other in good times and bad.
To make progress on reconciling divergent viewpoints and healing divisions, we start by asking: What do relationships across people of different races look like today? What are the good, bad, and ugly experiences? What made those experiences possible?
We will look at CRT, not to force a definition on people with different ideas about its meaning but to realize that the term itself has become divisive, regardless of definition.
We will not focus on your explicit or implicit biases, or whether you are or are not racist or antiracist but on the fact that we have in our society divergent views on what exactly constitutes racism and what we ought to do about it.
If we started the conversation with the definition of racism that suggests everyone is at least a little bit racist, or that the United States is founded on racist ideas and policies that persist today, large segments of the population would walk away from the conversation before it started. For a conversation of this kind to have value and meaning, we need nobody to preemptively walk away.
Our aim in the conversation is to develop strategies to talk and educate about ideas like privilege, discrimination, racism, and antiracism, but without getting bogged down in labels. Our aim is not to start from a place of division (for instance, CRT teaching kids to hate America vs. CRT teaches true history from which we must learn) but an openness to dig beneath the labels and rhetoric that divide.
Please register for both of the conversation sessions. The second will build on the first. If you can only attend one, you are welcome to do so. If you have questions, please email [email protected]
I look forward to learning from you.
Professor, School of Public Administration
University of Central Florida