Yesterday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order stating that “it shall be the policy of the United States not to promote race or sex stereotyping or scapegoating in the Federal workforce or in the Uniformed Services, and not to allow grant funds to be used for these purposes.”
This executive order could have a profound impact on the Claremont Colleges, affecting events such as last week’s Athenaeum talk by Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be An Antiracist, as well as Claremont McKenna College’s (CMC) plans to combat racial bias among its staff.
Section 5 of the order, which stipulates how grant money may not be used, states that recipients “will not use Federal funds to promote the concepts that (a) one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex; (b) an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously; (c) an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex; (d) members of one race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race or sex; (e) an individual’s moral character is necessarily determined by his or her race or sex; (f) an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex; (g) any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex; or (h) meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist, or were created by a particular race to oppress another race.”
The President’s order extended to so-called “divisive concepts,” defined in the order as:
“[T]he concepts that (1) one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex; (2) the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist; (3) an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously; (4) an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex; (5) members of one race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race or sex; (6) an individual’s moral character is necessarily determined by his or her race or sex; (7) an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex; (8) any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex; or (9) meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist, or were created by a particular race to oppress another race. The term “divisive concepts” also includes any other form of race or sex stereotyping or any other form of race or sex scapegoating.”
The executive order is intended to combat a “vision of America that is grounded in hierarchies based on collective social and political identities rather than in the inherent and equal dignity of every person as an individual. This ideology is rooted in the pernicious and false belief that America is an irredeemably racist and sexist country; that some people, simply on account of their race or sex, are oppressors; and that racial and sexual identities are more important than our common status as human beings and Americans.”
Though the order did not explicitly name Critical Race Theory (CRT) as the ideology in question, Encyclopedia Britannica defines CRT as “the view that the law and legal institutions are inherently racist and that race itself, instead of being biologically grounded and natural, is a socially constructed concept that is used by white people to further their economic and political interests at the expense of people of colour.” Desiree Adaway says one of the five basic tenets of CRT is the notion that “[r]acism exists everywhere in American life –from within our own thoughts, to our personal relationships, to our places of work, to our educational and judicial systems. CRT says that racism isn’t just the actions of individuals but that it’s embedded in our institutions, systems, and culture. It is our way of life.”
The executive order may have tangible effects on the Claremont Colleges. Earlier this year, CMC announced its plans to promote awareness of “structural inequality, racism, and the Black experience in America.” Included in these plans were provisions mandating “[p]rofessional development for staff in the area of promoting respect, inclusion, and racial bias awareness in the workplace; Annual study and experiential workshops for the College leadership (the President’s Executive Cabinet and Senior Advisory Council) on racism and other kinds of institutional barriers to inclusion and opportunity; A special service award for staff in the development of programming or service contributions that advance inclusivity; Annual experiential learning workshops for all staff on understanding and combating bias, respecting cultural differences, and racism.”
Under the order’s stipulations, however, “[t]he Attorney General should continue to assess the extent to which workplace training that teaches the divisive concepts set forth in section 2(a) of this order may contribute to a hostile work environment and give rise to potential liability under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq. If appropriate, the Attorney General and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission shall issue publicly available guidance to assist employers in better promoting diversity and inclusive workplaces consistent with Title VII.” Included in Section 10 of the executive order was a clause stating that “[n]othing in this order shall be construed to prohibit discussing, as part of a larger course of academic instruction, the divisive concepts listed in section 2(a) of this order in an objective manner and without endorsement,” indicating that classes in CRT and similar fields should remain largely unaffected, though endorsements of the ideology in a classroom setting remain prohibited for institutions receiving federal grants.
Additionally, college events, including Athenaeum talks, might be affected by the order. Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be An Antiracist, recently spoke at CMC’s Athenaeum. Kendi has said in the past that “structures and systems and power and policy” are the “fundamental problem” of American racism, and that racism in America “is institutional, structural, and systemic.”
Despite regulating the conduct of institutions benefitting from federal grants, the executive order does not prohibit organizations from continuing to educate their staff on the tenets of CRT. Save losing out on federal grant money, there will be no legal repercussions for institutions that choose to continue officially promoting the ideology.
While many predict that Trump’s executive order will mainly target CRT and similar theories, under the order’s regulations, doctrines promoting the superiority of any racial group remain prohibited to organizations receiving federal grant money, meaning white supremacist and other racist ideologies are also grounds to withhold grant money.
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