Across the country, “Critical Race Theory” has been weaponized as a justification for limiting identity-based conversations in schools and workplaces. To date, at least seven states have passed legislation limiting these types of conversations, while citing or banning Critical Race Theory in the process and at least seventeen more states have similar legislation in the works, proving this conversation is not going away.
In this Brave Conversation, Culture Moments podcast host Larry Baker is joined by Natasha Aruliah, JEDdi Consultant, Facilitator and Coach at The Inner Activist, and Tahitia Timmons, Senior Consultant at LCW, as they break down the true meaning of Critical Race Theory and de-weaponize it in the process.
Listen to the conversation below (Run time – 49:02) or scroll down for the full transcript.
Show Notes & Highlights
4:14: Tahitia breaks down what Critical Race Theory (CRT) really is
29:16: Natasha begins to explain how white fragility
24:03: Tahitia analyzes Florida’s “Stop Woke Act” and how Critical Race Theory is (and isn’t) the real target
27:50: Larry shares his perspective on what the targets of laws like Florida’s “Stop Woke Act” truly are
40:30: Tahitia shares a story about her son to illustrate how “colorblindness” does not exist
43:27: Natasha recalls a story about a school she worked with and how they supported the perpetrator of racism more than the targets of that same racism
45:36: Tahitia’s closing advice on the importance of having open dialogues
47:00: Natasha’s closing advice on multiple truths and valuing multiple truths
Larry Baker: Hello everyone and welcome to the culture moments podcast. I’m your host, Larry Baker. And I’m thrilled to have you join us for our second season called Brave Conversations with LCW.
In these episodes, you’ll hear from a panel of guests from specific communities offering a range of perspectives on the past two years. We’ll hear about their own experiences as well as their insights on what’s changed and more importantly, what needs to change to move equity forward.
As we all know so much has shifted and changed over the past two years, and for many of us we’re still in recovery from a very difficult 24 months.
So welcome. Today, we will be talking about a concept that you’ve probably seen in the headlines, critical race theory. Across the country, critical race theory has been weaponized as a justification for limiting identity based conversations in schools and in workplaces. To date, at least seven states have passed legislation limiting these types of conversation while citing or banning critical ace theory in the process. And at least 17 more states have similar legislation in the works.
This is a conversation that is not going away. So together let’s de-weaponize critical race theory by talking about what it actually is, what it isn’t, and what it all means for your own workplaces. So today I’m joined by Natasha Aruliah, who is a Consultant, Facilitator, Speaker, coach, and Founding Faculty at The Inner Activist and Tahitia Timmons, who is our very own Senior Consultant at LCW. Welcome to both of you.
And we are going to kick off this session by having each of you introduce yourself to us and tell me who you are and what you do. And Natasha, I am going to ask that you kick us off.
Natasha Aruliah: Thanks, Larry. It’s uh, lovely to be here with you both. So, uh, my name is Natasha Aruliah as you shared.
And I live currently on the territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations, otherwise known by its colonial name as Vancouver, Canada. Um, and I share that because. um, if we’re gonna talk about critical race theory, it’s also linked to colonization and I’ll share more as we, as we chat. I’m sure.
But that link is really important. So placing myself and my location in the context of that is really important. I’m a racialized settler here. I’m, um, an immigrant from the UK, which is where I was born. But. Um, um, of Sri Lankan Tamil descent, and that’s really important to me. And that’s part of the reason that decolonizing is so much part of my work.
Um, and, uh, I consider myself a Jedi in terms of consulting. And that is a justice equity decolonizing, and then diversity and inclusion consultant. And if we’re focusing on justice equity and decolonizing, the diversity and inclusion is a natural outcome of that. So I’m not a D&I person. I’m a justice equity and de-decolonizing person first and foremost.
Larry Baker: Awesome. Thank you so much for that Natasha
Tahitia Timmons: Tahitia. Thank you, Natasha. My name is Tahitia and as Larry mentioned, I am a senior consultant here at LCW. My background is rooted mainly in my experiences with health equity work and content creation for various organizations, mainly in the healthcare sphere.
So if you understand concepts of health equity, um, when we talk about CRT, which was what we’re discussing today, health equity really sits in that equity space and that, you know, in order to make change, we have to change some systems. My interest and engagement in this stems from that, because you can’t talk about health equity on an individual basis.
You talk about it in a system basis. So I bring to this, my experience as a nurse educator, as a certified diversity professional. And that’s what informs my thoughts on this. And then from a personal, uh, perspective, I am a Queer Black neuro diverse woman sitting as a single parent. So the things that, you know, sort of impress my personal life and impact my personal life tend to not be from an individual perspective, but from systems.
Larry Baker: That’s awesome. Thank you so much for that Tahitia. And I thank you both again for joining me in this extremely important conversation. And, and I wanna just start off with a very basic setting the stage question, and I’m gonna ask that, um, Tahitia, you kick us off with responding to this because. I want us to begin talking about what is critical race theory and what are some of the biggest misconceptions about it?
Because I personally believe that this is a manufactured pandemic. It’s a manufactured panic. I mean, it’s just, if you talk to people, the majority of people don’t even know what CRT is all about. It, it seems that they’re just following along with some false narrative. So Tahitia, I want you to talk to me about what is it and what are some of the most common misconceptions?
Tahitia Timmons: Thank you, Larry. So critical race theory. If we’re talking real critical race theory, it is, it is a concept that came out of legal academia back in the seventies. And so it, it really was about legal scholars, examining racism and the role it plays in our laws, our policies, our systems impact people.
So that’s really what critical race theory is. And I find it fascinating that you have this concept coming out of the seventies, eighties, you know, you have refinement over time, but now all of a sudden we have this boom critical race theory. We don’t wanna talk critical race theory to employees, or we don’t wanna talk about it to students, but we’ve been talking in legal academia about critical race theory.
I do not believe that critical race theory is what’s being applied in school systems nor by employers, nor in DEI programs, I think ideas and concepts and, and the idea of analyzing how we live in community societies and structures that comes from there, but the actual tenants and there’s five key tenants, uh, to critical race theory.
I do not believe that that is necessarily being expressed in those areas. And so maybe so the five tenants and I’m just gonna run through them are that race is a social construct that there is. There is not a biological, you know, difference per se, between our races, that this is something that we do socially.
So if you’re thinking that race is a social construct, then it’s a system construct, right? Because I don’t make social constructs as an individual. They’re made for me by society. And that if race is a social construct and we examine it through that lens, then racism is a normal feature that this is what comes out of living and acting and exists.
In systems and social institutions and that it’s that systemic racism that creates inequalities. And for me, like since I’m approaching it from a health equity perspective, it’s those, um, disparities that we see in the system. And so people working in healthcare have heard about, well, there’s. Inequitable distribution of healthcare and there’s disparities in healthcare.
We’re not afraid to talk about that as a social system, but then when we talk about other things, we get nervous because we’re afraid to say this is a system, but I don’t believe in DEI we’re really saying, okay, it’s a normal feature. And that it exists in systems and institutions in the ways that it is talked about in the five tens.
And then thirdly, uh, CRT rejects that racism is a few bad apples. And we hear this concept that when bad things happen, it’s not the group. It is the bad apples, right. That it’s a few people who did something wrong, or it. We’ve moved past that. And that was that piece. Um, I don’t believe that. We necessarily say that, you know, racism is a few bad apples or, or that we’re not rejecting that theory, but I think we’re looking at it a little bit deeper, uh, when it comes to CRT, because there really like that is one of the tenants of CRT.
And I don’t believe that all schools, all employers are saying, you know, they’re rejecting that because if you think about different DEI programs, Depending on where you are in your journey, you may not be talking about that in that manner. So I would like to say that I really believe the five tenants are not necessarily included in when, um, we talk about CRT in schools and education.
And then I would like to also add that part of that is the concept of merit. Right? So we hear a lot about meritocracy. And, and how people should be judged on merit alone in certain things. And that CRT, yes, it rejects meritocracy. But if you think about merit in a social system, as a way to evaluate and judge people, certain people will have different advantages.
And that is why CRT looks to reject meritocracy. It’s an unequal system, right? So if you think of it from a system approach, you can’t have merit without correcting the system. You can’t judge people from a merit perspective until you write it that, and I. And, and I’m not gonna repeat this over and over again, but I don’t think that throughout, um, all examples of DEI training or talks about identity, we’re saying, hey, merit doesn’t have a place.
Um, and then there’s this concept and this gets people rejecting the concept of color blindness, and let’s be realistic, when people of color or I’ll even say women… I’ll pull this into there. You cannot see me without seeing all of me, my, my natural hair, my darker skin, my Black skin for people to say, I don’t see color.
This color blindness and the rejection of that. When you analyze law and policy, it, it makes sense that they’re gonna reach out this because we know there were laws written specifically regarding color. So you can’t say that there is no that. Laws and policies are written without that view of color blindness.
Yeah. And then the final thing, and I just wanna say the rejection pieces, those three things are, are kind of in, in one tenant. And then the final thing with this, with what is CRT is. If you look at history and laws and policy, they are not written by marginalized groups. They are written by the majority or the winner, right?
The, the loser doesn’t write the policy or, or lead the discussion. It is the winners and the majority that have created our laws. So. The thought in CRT is that we need to think about when, when we look at scholarship, including those stories from all of our cultures and experiences, so that we can see that broad and beautiful experience that many different people have had versus just the experiences of the majority and having that shape and influence our laws and policies.
Larry Baker: So Natasha, I’m definitely gonna get you in on this question as well, but I wanna quickly summarize what I’m hearing for you Tahitia.
So CRT is a graduate level course… So if you are not pursuing a law degree, You are not being taught CRT. I just need to make that perfectly clear so that we can demystify all of the noise that’s surrounding this.
So it is a graduate level law course. If you are not pursuing a law degree, you are not being taught CRT. And even if there are some aspects to it in the schools, it definitely isn’t about teaching that races are superior to others or to hate America. Could that be a fair assumption in regards to what CRT is and what it isn’t?
Tahitia Timmons: Yes, 110%… Kimberly Crenshaw, who, who termed that phrase CRT, uh, her thought behind CRT was that we were gonna critically examine us laws. Let me be clear us laws and the impact they had on racism. In this country on the lives of non-white people. Absolutely. So that’s what it, it is, it is the, it is looking at laws and I doubt that a third grader somewhere is sitting down and saying, let me look at the, the interpretation of law back in that the Supreme court did on this let piece of legislation.
Absolutely. If so that third grader is very smart.
Larry Baker: absolutely. Natasha. I want you to jump in this, tell me your interpretation of critical race theory and some of the biggest misconceptions about it.
Natasha Aruliah: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s interesting. So absolutely. I’m not an expert on this, so let me be really clear. Um, but for me it is an it’s, it’s an academic theory.
It comes out of academia and as Tahitia said, specifically out of, of legal scholarship. And so, yeah, when we are talking about it in terms of in workplaces, that is not what’s going on in workplaces. I mean, I think Tahitia laid that out really clearly, but I do think that there are, you know, as Kimberly Crenshaw and other scholars, um, studied examining legal systems.
Other systems started to pay attention because of course, if, if we’re talking about racism being systemic, it’s not just one system, it’s all the systems, health systems, education systems, political systems, and government systems, uh, financial and monetary systems. Right. It’s all there. And so, um, what’s happened and I.
You know, the way I kind of see it is that it has infused into a lot of people’s thinkings, a lot of, um, scholarship, um, and also into then application, which is what kind of, where I’m at with it. Um, and I really wanna come back to when I describe myself as not being a D&I person, I think D&I is, um, often very soft in workplaces.
Mm. And for me, I wanna see transformative change. I want to see injustice and inequity change in workplaces. And so for me, I have to bring in a critical analysis and, you know, The interesting thing about CRT whether it’s the actual CRT the legal scholarship, or it’s the sort of academic, um, or the, or the, um, sort of belief in those tenants.
That races, a social construct, that it’s systems that are at play, that it rejects this notion of a few bad apples that it rejects meritocracy it, you know, it really pushes back on colorblindness. Right? And it recognizes who wields power let’s have a, you know, the conversation is about power and who held power, who held it.
To create the systems and who continues to hold it because the systems then benefit and privilege and maintain power. Right? If you think about CRT as having opening up those conversations about power, how is it any different than feminist theory or queer theory or any right. And, and so some of the backlash and the misconceptions that, oh, it’s, it’s causing more polarization and it’s vilifying white people and stuff.
You know that, I mean, that was there when feminist theory was first coming out too, and men were really threatened and felt that, but would men say that now, can they not acknowledge that the systems and structures were built by men that benefited men and women have, have been, you know, people who identify as women, CIS women, um, uh, and transgender folk have been.
Penalized and, and, and it’s unequal and, and, um, and therefore, um, oppressive to them. Right? Yeah. And so for me, that is critical race theory allows for those conversations to get past this, this, um, you know, this, I’m not racist piece that, you know…
Personalizing it and being so, uh, fronted by being attacked, as being racist and recognizing racism is baked into the systems. Yeah. It’s baked into our organizations. It’s baked into every single thing that we do. And if we don’t examine it and deconstruct it, we can’t address it.
Larry Baker: Yeah. That Natasha, that’s such a great point.
And I really want to tell or tag into something that you said about how you do not consider yourself a DEI practitioner, because you said that that’s too soft. And I am of that mindset as well that we do not push the button as much as we probably should. So I’d like you to respond to this question.
How do you insert that critical race theory, if you will, within the context of the workplace in some of the things that you do? Yeah. Give, share with us how you do that.
Natasha Aruliah: Yeah, this is, this is where the challenge comes, right? This is where the rubber hits the road. Yeah. Um, I mean, really, it’s hard for organizations, um, to do some of this really deeper work because, um, you know, D&I is often about, um, You know, sort of getting the numbers in, making it look, it can be D&I done badly is performative and it’s tokenizing.
And so, um, for me, really bringing in the justice and equity piece, bringing in the critical, uh, you know, critical race theory and other critical theories is about really examining how, if they keep, if organizations keep playing the game and. Keep maintaining their systems and structures. They’re gonna keep, um, keep it in a unequal and inequitable for, um, marginalized spoken.
So in terms of race, in particular, it’s thinking about, you know, cuz with D&I, what you see is they’ll bring, you know, organizations will make an effort and they’ll bring in lots of people of color, um, lots of black and indigenous and people of color, but where are they in the organization? They’re not usually at the top.
Right. They’re at the bottom. Um, what is the experience like the revolving door? You know, we talk about glass ceilings. What about revolving doors? People come in and they leave, they come in and they leave because they, they’re not healthy work environments. Yeah. And so looking at patterns. Um, and looking at data very critically, um, disaggregating data, um, all of those kinds of things are the ways in which we start to really unpack the systemic practices and the structures in organizations.
Um, and start to have conversations about that and looking at, um, the work, you know, things like recruitment. I mean, a lot of organizations say we wanna attract, you know, BIPOC folk and they have the, just the disclaimer, but there’s nothing in the descriptions of the organization or the job that bakes in the equity is part of the job.
How are they, how is that, you know, how are they contributing to and committing to as an organization, as individuals in the organization? Um, anti-racism equity, um, and, and justice, right?
Larry Baker: Yeah, that, that, that’s a, that’s great insight, Natasha. And, and I’m gonna shift gears a little bit because I wanna ask Tahitia a question…
So Tahitia, I want you to dig into this one, because what I’m seeing is that far too often critical race theory has become the weapon that’s used to attack race based conversations in schools, or in workplaces. We have seen numerous new laws that have shown this to be true. Like the, uh, Florida’s bill known as the “Stop Woke Act.”
Let me ask you this Tahitia. Why has critical race theory become the target for these attacks and what, in your opinion? What do you think the goal of these attacks are?
Tahitia Timmons: So my thoughts on this are that critical race theory is not really what they’re attacking because some of the language in the Florida Stop Woke Act does not have anything to do with critical race theory.
So when you talk about, anti-racism like not saying things like you, you’re gonna say that systems are oppressive, that you’re not gonna talk about privilege, that you’re not gonna make people feel bad. I would. Them to examine the actual documents around critical race theory and find that in there where it says we are going, this is what this is about.
And so, especially with the Florida woke act, there’s a lot of things in there. Like they’re attempting to. Build this bucket around critical race theory that has nothing to do with critical race theory, but it’s being used as this. Let’s pull up this concept. Yeah. As you know, this is bad and we don’t want to polarize people and critical race theory is all about.
Pointing out that, you know, we do view people differently and, and systems are oppressive, but that’s not true. And they don’t understand what critical race theory is. But if I can point to something and say, well, there’s the bad guy then. I’m gonna latch on to C RT as the motivator and the rationale behind why people want to have discussions around race and say that we can’t do this at work, or we can’t do this at school, but similar to Florida, you know, don’t say gay.
Right. And sorry, I had to laugh cuz it’s just so ridiculous. Right? Um, it’s one of those things that people want to talk about. People want to discuss things, things, these things, because we are moving towards a more diverse, uh, society, a more longing for inclusion and community society. And if I don’t know how to, uh, understand where you are coming from, how can I create community with you?
Yeah. Then, and, and, and I, and I’m gonna say this from this perspective, if I don’t know how to create community with my white colleagues and my, uh, black colleagues, then I’m gonna feel alienated. I’m gonna feel alone at work. Yeah. And so to not give people the tools to have conversations with individuals, they may never have met before or interacted.
Yeah. You know, you’re really doing a disservice yeah. And critical race theory is not about, you know, here’s what that should look like when you engage in those conversations. Mm-hmm, , it’s more about let’s analyze our laws and, and we’re not talking laws here. So, you know, we really have to think about, are we doing a disservice?
And as someone else has said, and I forget her name. Uh, when discussing critical race theory and, and this argument, uh, that it’s bad in schools and bad for employers. When we look back, where do you wanna be in this discussion? Mm-hmm do you wanna be on the right side of this? Or do you wanna look back and say, whew, man, I wish I had not made those public station statements.
I wish I had not been the driver of that legislation. I wish I had not voted for that because now I see. That was the wrong way to go. Yeah. That was not true, you know, true forward thinking. So it’s interesting.
Larry Baker: Let me just interject and then Natasha, I’ll let you jump in because I think I have a little bit of a more sinister side to the reason why this is happening. Right? Because I study history and, and, and one of the things that I know about history, if you don’t know your history, you’re, you’re bound to repeat it. And what I believe that this is all about, and again, this is Larry Baker’s thoughts.
I think this is all about school choice. Because what I think they really want to have happen is to let parents take their tax dollars that are typically allocated to these public schools and then use it to send their child to any school that they like. But if you think about this, historically, it’s nothing new because this happened immediately after the brown versus the board of education, where those Southern states set up, what they call segregation academies.
And it’s history simply repeating itself as the ultimate goal of, well, like you said, Tahitia, they don’t really even talk about critical race theory in the stop will gap. They talk about everything around it so that they can use any vague reference to conversations about race so that they can say no, no, no, no.
I don’t want my kid to be around that. So let’s adopt school choice. So that I can take those tax dollars and we can recreate segregation academies that were so prevalent in the south. Natasha, I’ll let you jump in.
Natasha Aruliah: Yeah, this is fascinating. I mean, I think so couple of things, first of all, I’m a psychologist by training.
So my, my mind goes straight to human behavior and, and, and that kind. Sort of reasoning or, or viewpoint. And I think, you know, as everything it’s complex, so there’s many kind of pieces at play here. And I think, um, it is a red herring that people are, um, Reacting and, and loo, you know, sort of blaming critical race theory, cuz they don’t know how to frame what their discomfort and their fear, um, and the change that’s afoot.
And I, I also think there’s a piece of this that is very reactive, particularly in the us about, and this is my outsider from, from outside us looking into, um, voice that. As black lives matter movement in particular gained such power globally, not just locally, but globally. Yes. And the world was paying attention to what was happening in the us and asking.
And then you have this. Boom of books, white fragility, you know how to be an anti-racist all these, right? Um, all these people reading ly around it, the fear and the threat. Was there. And I think this backlash is in part it’s a national, it like it from it’s a group white fragility showing up. Yeah. Um, you know, it it’s that.
And so, you know, the, the language, if you look at those acts, as, as Tisia was saying was, it’s not actually about critical theory. It is actually about white fragility. Yeah. It’s about anti-racism, it’s all the language of the, the popular books and stuff. Exactly. That’s that’s kind of my view looking from the outside is there’s a national kind of white fragility moment happening in the us mm-hmm and that backlash.
Tahitia Timmons: Natasha, that was, I just wanna add into that, that, you know, it almost seemed like all of a sudden the United States, which had had… Oh, we’re so awesome. We’re wonderful. We can’t do anything wrong. All of a sudden it’s like we dropped our pants and the world looked at us and said, wow, they have a deep seated, rooted oppression of Black individuals that has not gone away. Mm-hmm and it was, we were ashamed. Uh, I wasn’t ashamed, but I know white culture here was ashamed.
Like, oh my goodness, I, I’m not racist. Cuz you heard people saying, well I’m not racist and don’t blame me for my history, but I don’t believe that’s, you know, honestly, when I look at my, like when I look at white culture and my friends who are white, I’m not sitting there going, wow, look at that racist white person.
That’s not the lens that I’m viewing them in, but there was this backlash of, oh my gosh, well, I’m not a racist. And that is not what was being said with the black lives matter, uh, uh, movement. It was look, this is who we are. And if we are gonna advocate for authenticity everywhere, this is who the us. And we have to accept it much like other countries have that have done things that they’re not proud of Germany as a clear example, but we have done things in our history and risen up on the backs of colonialism, uh, oppressions, slavery to not talk about this yeah.
Is to say, you know, It’s in the past and we’re gonna ignore it. And as Larry said, we’re not gonna learn anything. If we don’t learn from our past, you know, it’s, it’s nothing that we’re proud of here in the us, but we have to examine it so that we don’t fall back into those bad tropes.
Larry Baker: And what I think is, is what we’re all saying is that the solution isn’t about passing laws to ban these conversations. It should be a greater emphasis on how do we have them better because they’re not going away. I don’t care how you try to legislate it. It is not going away. So with that in mind, and I’m gonna start with Natasha on this question because we understand.
This CRT concept or there the, whether, whatever the actual definition of it is, it’s gonna remain a weapon that’s used, uh, in these broader attacks on these spaces to have race based conversations in the workplace. So Natasha, I’d like to get your insight on what does this mean for the work that we’re asked to do?
In de and I moving forward or in Jedi as, as, as you are, uh, focusing in on and then Tahitia I’ll have you respond to that as well?
Natasha Aruliah: Well, I mean, if, if, if successful these laws are shutting down, those potentials for conversations and as you, you know, we’ve all been saying it’s critical. We cannot move forward.
By not having the conversations and any, if you’ve done any work around conflicts theory, you’ll see that, you know, conflict ignored, like issues ignored build and build and build till they come to eruption point. Right. And so, um, the, the conversations, the dialogue is critical in being able to prevent huge eruption in the future, but actually to move forward because we are pluralistic societies.
I mean, the reality is we are getting more and more diverse and let’s be really clear that. You know, um, part of critical race theory and particularly Kimberley Crenshaw’s work was around intersectionality. Um, and recognizing the oppressions. Well, we live in a, on a planet and, and the environment cannot be separated out from, from this either.
But the environment has to be framed, not from white environment, environmentalism, but from a, a justice and equity lens, because. All of the things that are happening on the globe are gonna have an impact on our countries in particular. Um, and so that diversity is gonna be even more increased as, as migration happens.
Right. And so if we’re not prepared to. Create societies and communities. It’s not, we have to be able to coexist together. And so we are not creating the conditions by shutting down dialogue, by shutting down discussion by acknowledging difference. And, and this is where the colorblindness piece is so offensive.
Yes. People bring great treasures and wealth and riches to us when with their. And I love being who I am. I don’t want to be a man. I don’t want to have my gender ignored. I don’t want to be seen as white. I don’t want right. I am who I am and, and I bring riches as who I am. And so we’re shutting all that down.
If we, if we’re trying to not only prevent. Discussion and dialogue, but also kind of homo people kind of, you know, the, the, I, I, you know, I have to say the melting pot ideal is not one that I, I am particularly fond of. Yeah. Because we, we should be able to claim all of our identities, not just one.
Larry Baker: Yeah. Cause that melting pot is a code for assimilation, right? That’s really what it is.
Tahitia. I want you to jump in there. What do you think it means for the work that we do? If everything is going to be labeled CRT, when the reality is it’s nowhere near it, what, what, what are your thoughts?
Tahitia Timmons: So I, I honestly think that these, the, the, this type of legislation, is going to be overturned.
There’s already cases to overturn this type of legislation. We’ve seen it, uh, With federal law with Trump’s. Um, uh, and I’m, I’m blanking on. He had passed that… And that impacted, uh, strictly those who received federal funding, but those, those type, these type of laws I believe will be overturned or they won’t pass.
However, with Florida’s, uh, Woke act it is interesting that the phrasing, if you were to read it without any context or understanding behind it, um, it definitely is vague enough that written read. If you read it out of context, it sounds like good practice, right? Like it. Not do some of these things.
So that’s how I think, you know, these are getting pushed forward, but as far as our work in D&I or, or diversity and inclusion, because most workplaces focus on diversity and inclusion, as you’ve said, Natasha, not really the justice piece or the equity piece, as far as our work, I think it’s not gonna have the type of impact that we believe it will because most of the lessons.
And the moving, the, what we call the dial forward is around. Well, how can I get you thinking about, uh, what your, your group looks like in your organization? And if we start here, then we can make it more diverse. And if we create programs, then we can look at inclusion. So I, I truly believe that not a lot of organizations are leading.
Into the justice piece. And if you’re an organization that is gonna lean into the justice piece, believe me, that they are prepared for the backlash that comes from leaning into the justice piece and the equity piece. And so maybe you’re seeing some of this with some of the discussions around health equity and recognizing, especially with COVID that we had a system of oppression that put people of color.
It at a disadvantage when it came to surviving the pandemic. Um, but I don’t think that you are gonna see that type of let’s really look at this. Let’s really teach people what equity and justice looks like, which is what some of this, you know, when you talk. White fragility and other things that you’re not allowed to teach with critical race theory.
You’re not gonna have that, but I do. I do know that this is gonna impact people’s work in places like classrooms, because here’s the thing. Employees, right. I go to a training and I know there’s things that I don’t wanna bring up because I probably don’t wanna have that deeper discussion in that room.
Children have no barriers to what they say. And I’ll, I’ll tell a story about that because my son who I interracial, his father is, is white, when he was four years old, and this is how I know that we, as a species are not colorblind, he said to me, he said, are you not with daddy because he’s white? Are white and black people not allowed to be together? At four. So obviously he saw race somewhere in our world, he came up with a concept that race is a thing and race impacts how we relate to others. Yeah. And I had never said that his father had never said that. It was interesting to see a four year old, uh, have that dialogue with me.
And I said, well, why would you think that? And he said, I don’t know. It’s just like, isn’t that the way it is. I remember him saying isn’t that’s like stuff mm-hmm and he didn’t have a rationale. It was just from the environment around to him. So if you think kids are not going to ask questions about, well, why do I see this stuff on the news and what, what it, what happened with Floyd and why did that happen?
And for parents who think that kids are not going to ask their, especially in high school, uh, and, and maybe later middle school ask these difficult questions about current events then we are truly dis servicing our children because I know we’ve often interpreted the American public school system as the place where our children gain knowledge but also perspectives about the world around them. They have been socialized to have a comfort level with their teachers, similar to their parents, to see them as sources of guidance and a place to ask questions. If you shut that down, then where do students go? If they don’t feel comfortable asking that question of their parent?
Larry Baker: Yeah. So you, you bring up such an interesting point, Tahitia, because every time I hear this conversation and it focuses around, uh, kids being uncomfortable or the discomfort of kids, my main question is whose discomfort is being prioritized. Yeah. Because never once have I heard any of these individuals mention how this impacts children of.
Never once, not at one school board meeting, not at one session of, of their little press conferences, never once have I heard them mention how this impacts children of color. So whose discomfort are we really prioritizing? And if that’s not, not raised, I don’t know what is Natasha? Go ahead. Yeah.
Natasha Aruliah: Yeah, no, you’re just reminding me of story Larry.
So I’ve worked with, um, a, a school board, um, quite a lot. And there was an incident where there was, um, a hate crime. A white student sent a video around saying some really offensive, violent things towards a Black student. And the school board’s response was, you know, we’re a school, this is a teachable moment and they did all this stuff to look after the white student and did nothing for the Black student or the other students of color who witnessed it all.
Cuz the video went viral, um, and who also felt unsafe and threatened. And so, um, you know, I, I mean, I think it’s interesting. Critical race theory, um, and other critical theories talk about systems and let’s be really clear, education is a system and it is possible to create minds that are open and curious, and critical thinking and stuff.
But often education is a place to socialize and, and that’s one of the functions of assimilation is absolutely happens in education systems. And so let’s be really clear that. If we wanna bring up children who are able to adapt to the world, that they are inheriting, they need critical thinking. They need agility.
They need flexibility. Those come from dialogue across difference. They don’t come from assimilation into the main street.
Larry Baker: Absolutely. Thank you so much for that. And, and couple, one more thing before we go, because we, we are, uh, having such a great conversation and I really hate to slow this down, but I do want for each one of you to share.
Some advice that you might have for our listeners, specifically those individuals that are trying to navigate in this workplace, in these workplaces that may not be as receptive to having these dialogues. So Tahitia, I’m gonna ask that you start and then Natasha, I’m gonna give you the final word.
Tahitia Timmons: So I would advise workplaces to understand where they are in their journey and understand that we can control for so much when it comes to creating educations and trainings, but whether or not it’s written into the, the curriculum, people are gonna ask questions and people.
We’re curious by nature. So we need to be prepared to have open dialogues and open dialogues do not have constraints. So as an organization, you need to be prepared to be open, to be authentic. And to understand that though D&I does not, uh, you know, push critical race theory. We want to be able to engage in deeper dialogues if people should inquire and to put a constraint on that is to, uh, silence.
Your educators, your workplaces and your growth. We’re not gonna grow as a country if we cannot have open dialogue.
Larry Baker: Absolutely. Natasha, your advice.
Natasha Aruliah: Yeah. I, I mean, I would echo that that dialogue is the starting place and that, um, leaning into that dialogue. Um, we have to be able to sit with discomfort. We have to be able to sit with uncertainty and not knowing, um, and that I think that’s part of the issue is that people aren’t willing to be uncomfortable, but we, we have to be uncomfortable and that there’s not one truth. We can have many truths. Um, there are many realities. And so how do we hold? That’s the piece about actually valuing diversity is holding multiple truths and valuing multiple truths.
Larry Baker: Yeah. That, that, that is so amazing Natasha, because, you know, when has learning and growing ever been comfort. I mean, I cannot think of anything that I’ve ever learned that I’ve ever accomplished, that it came out of my comfort and, and that’s just the reality that we have to be willing to face. So we absolutely could have talked about this for hours and hours and hours. I know I could. And, judging, by this conversation, I know that both of you could as well, but I do wanna thank you sincerely for spending some time with us today, educating our listeners. And I just thank you for the engagement in this conversation. I think everything went extremely well.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much.
Tahitia Timmons: Thank you, Larry. Thank you.
Larry Baker: And to all of you that are listening, we wanna know what were your biggest takeaways from this conversation? Please share them with us on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn at Language and Culture Worldwide or LCW.