“..an individual should not be made to feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race.” – FL “Stop W.O.K.E. Act”

“This is wrong when it’s done to our kids, but it’s also wrong to force employees to have to go through that.” – FL Gov. Ron DeSantis, re “racial equity” trainings in the workplace, 3.20.2020

In September 2020, the former president issued Executive Order 13950 which prohibited nine “divisive concepts” from being discussed or facilitated using federal funds in ways that would cause “..any individual…[to] feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex.”  This Executive Order added “The Attorney General should continue to assess the extent to which workplace training that teaches the divisive concepts set forth in…this order may contribute to a hostile work environment and may give rise to potential liability. . .”

Although this Order was rescinded with the change in administrations, it gave rise (using much of the same/similar language) to current state legislation that classifies any discussion about the racial history of this country – as well as its current impacts – under the “Critical Race Theory (CRT) Framework.

Florida and Iowa are two states that have aggressively pursued legislation that will protect the story constructed about the U.S.’s racialized history, even in light of all historical evidence to the contrary.  Depending on the outcome of the 2022 elections — and whether similar legislation will be introduced federally — and whether businesses are included in this type of legislation as it spreads to other states, businesses will have a choice to make regarding their own “DEI” and Anti-Racism/Anti-Oppression efforts.

The business case for diversity and inclusion has been documented for years. Yet leadership in U.S. workplaces is still disproportionately white; policies, practices, and organizational norms are still weighted toward an ableist, white, middle-income, straight, cis-gendered, non-immigrant, white male, Christian norm; and cultural anti-Blackness is still reflexively normalized. Legislating false narratives around U.S. history and present practices only serve to give cover to codification of these norms.

As the country continues its whitewashing and “blacklash” against racial and other forms of inclusion, businesses will increasingly be called upon to make public choices: either capitulating to false narratives that are legislatively mandated or supporting true renderings of U.S. history and racial justice efforts that ultimately benefit the country, its institutions, and its people. 

If you are neutral in situations of injustice,

you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”   

— Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Written by A. Adar Ayira for

Baltimore Racial Justice Action’s Racial Equity Practices (R.E.P.)

A Monthly Newsletter for 21st Century Institutions