UC law school deans refute federal government criticism of Critical Race Theory

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According to UC Berkeley School of Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, Critical Race Theory does not assert that all white individuals contribute to racism; instead, the theory teaches about the current role of racism in society.

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Deans from several UC law schools released a joint statement Friday addressing the federal government’s decision to ban staff training relating to white privilege and the social science framework Critical Race Theory, or CRT.

In a memorandum from the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, or OMB, director Russel Vought called such training “anti-American,” and said it counters fundamental American beliefs and thus should not be funded.

In their statement, the deans defended CRT training, alleging that the OMB’s understanding of it is inaccurate and simplistic.

“CRT invites us to confront with unflinching honesty how race has operated in our history and our present,” the joint statement states. “(It invites us) to recognize the deep and ongoing operation of ‘structural racism,’ through which racial inequality is reproduced within our economic, political, and educational systems even without individual racist intent.”

UCLA School of Law Dean Jennifer Mnookin and UC Berkeley School of Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky both alleged that the OMB memo profoundly mischaracterized CRT and said they felt the need to speak out against the criticism.

According to Mnookin, CRT and implicit bias training raise awareness and can lead individuals to reflect on hiring criteria that are discriminatory.

According to campus sociology associate professor Cristina Mora, CRT analyzes how social structures and institutions were built from racism and how they reproduce and continue racial injustice. She added that CRT allows individuals to understand and acknowledge that racism lies not in just a “few bad apples” but in society as a whole.

“At the very least, (CRT) shows you how entrenched racial bias is in the nation,” Mora said. “You get a sense that bias isn’t about a sort of disposition people might learn in school; you get a deeper understanding of how it is ingrained in society.”

Mora added that CRT is not “anti-American” because it acts as a tool to achieve equality and liberty, which, according to Mora, are both elements of one definition of “American.”

CRT, according to Chemerinsky, does not assert that all white individuals contribute to racism; instead, the theory teaches about the current role of racism in society.

Chemerinsky and Mora said they are not certain as to what the long-term effect of this ban will be, with Mora adding that the ban may be a signal to return to “colorblind” politics. According to Mora, this type of politics shifts the conversation from discussing how policies have harmed marginalized communities to focusing on merits.

Mora added that anti-bias training is not an “end-all” solution to racial injustice and that these trainings are only part of the solution.

“We don’t have a solution,” Mora said. “However, most people would acknowledge that much more knowledge, even bitter knowledge, will always be better than just being blind.”

Contact Julie Madsen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Julie_Madsen_.