In recent years, critical race theory (CRT) has become a highly debated and controversial topic, often misunderstood and misrepresented. To understand the swirl of discussions and opinions, we want to provide a comprehensive exploration of CRT, addressing the misconceptions surrounding it and analyzing its potential impact on society and on organizations.

The main themes of a recent Global ERG Network webinar on CRT, featuring Dr. Kideste Youssef (Bethune Cookman University), Dr. Daniel Hollar (Bethune Cookman University), Judge Hubert Grimes (Monts Law, P.L.), Michael Fosberg (Incognito, Inc.), and Bobby Gordon (Talent Dimensions) offer a window into the topic.

Unpacking Misconceptions

One of the main misconceptions surrounding CRT is the idea that it promotes a zero-sum game, where one group’s gain is another group’s loss. However, as Michael pointed out, “It’s not you get this, I get that, or you get this, I lose that, or whatever. It’s not a zero-sum game.” This highlights the fact that CRT is not about taking away from one group to benefit another but rather about understanding how systemic racism and inequality have shaped our society.

Another misconception is the belief that CRT labels all individuals as inherently racist. Kideste clarified, “So by virtue of being a white male, I’m automatically racist, right? You can have conversations about institutional racism, microaggression, unconscious bias, implicit bias, without requiring people to subscribe to the idea that they themselves are racist or sexist or homophobic.” This quote emphasizes that CRT does not label individuals as racist based on their identity but instead examines how systemic racism operates within institutions and society as a whole influencing behaviors and outcomes.

Exploring the Themes

Throughout the webinar’s rich discussion, several themes surfaced that can help to deepen understanding of core elements of CRT.

Intergroup Contact Theory

Gordon Allport introduced the concept of intergroup contact theory through his intergroup contact hypothesis in 1954. His initial work prompted decades of intergroup studies resulting in the theory and revealing data reinforcing the importance of contact in reducing prejudice. As Michael stated in the webinar, “By sharing our personal stories across majority and minority populations, we can break down the prejudices that exist between us by discovering we have more in common than we have different.” This highlights the importance of creating spaces where dialogue is encouraged and understanding is deepened. Conversation leads to dialogue and dialogue is a key step in addressing racial inequality and promoting inclusivity.

Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace

The webinar discussion also touched on applying CRT in the workplace, particularly in creating a fair and inclusive environment and the need to create an environment where conversations and discussions about valuing people’s work and addressing institutional culture can occur. The speakers emphasized the importance of connecting through shared lived experiences and addressing the structures that perpetuate inequality and inequities without labeling individuals as racist or sexist. This approach promotes inclusion and supports building and maintaining an inclusive environment by providing equal access to opportunities and valuing diverse perspectives.

The Fallacy of “I don’t see color.”

The concept of colorblindness, as it is often described by people who state, “I don’t see color!” was also addressed in the webinar, with speakers highlighting its limitations and potential harm. Michael shared, “Colorblindness is denying what is in front of you and inhibits the ability to see one another. By being colorblind, we are denying the person in front of you.” This challenges the notion that ignoring race or pretending not to see color is a solution to racism. Instead, it emphasizes the importance of recognizing and valuing individuals’ racial and ethnic identities to promote understanding and equality.

Implications and Potential Impact

The discussion of CRT and its themes has significant positive implications for society. By addressing misconceptions and promoting dialogue, CRT has the potential to foster understanding and empathy across different racial and ethnic groups. It can also lead to the dismantling of systemic racism and the creation of more equitable institutions and workplaces. However, the impact of CRT is not without controversy, as evidenced by the ongoing debates and attempts to restrict its teaching and discussion. The potential impact of CRT lies in its ability to challenge existing power structures, initiate examination and detection of prejudices that may be embedded in the resulting policies and processes and promote real and lasting social change.

The Future of the CRT Discussion

CRT is a complex and nuanced framework that seeks to address systemic racism and promote equity. By unpacking misconceptions and exploring its themes, we gain a deeper understanding of its potential impact on society and on organizations that operate within that society. While CRT has faced backlash and attempts to suppress its teachings, its outlook remains hopeful. As more individuals engage in conversations about race, challenge existing power structures and seek to create more inclusive spaces, the principles of CRT can continue to shape a more equitable and just society.

As we move forward, it is crucial to continue educating ourselves, engaging in dialogue and challenging our own biases. By doing so, we can contribute to the ongoing work of dismantling systemic racism and creating a more inclusive and equitable future for all.

We thank Dr. Youssef, Dr. Hollar, Judge Grimes, Michael Fosberg and Bobby Gordon for sharing their insights and expertise!

If you would like to join the conversation, consider joining the Global ERG Network.