If you have been following the news over the past several months, critical race theory or CRT has likely become a familiar term. If you are still not certain of the definition, take a look at New Discourses and Sovereign Nations because in our current environment you can’t afford not to know. This approach to viewing the world has started to permeate every part of our society. Your children are being taught to apply it in their grade school, colleges have integrated it into their curriculum, policy makers are advancing it within the government and your churches might even be teaching it. If you think this is just another fad in the arena of philosophy that will not really impact you, it is time to start paying attention.
There seems to often be a misconception that the business world is immune to the turmoil of philosophical thought which occurs within academia and eventually makes the rounds throughout government policy makers, but the connection between these two is very real. Perhaps there was a time when a business leader or small business owner could afford a degree of naivety about these matters without being significantly impacted. Those days are over.
The goal of CRT is not to guide or shape certain aspects of our culture into particular direction, but to dismantle the very core of our society. It did not arrive here overnight, but it has reached an apex within our society where it no longer simply demands a change in thinking disconnected from tangible, visible action. The desire is for rapid, visible change by disrupting what they perceive as the status quo across every industry. Businesses are being told they not only need to have policies and procedures in place which ensure the absence of discrimination against gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation, but actively demonstrate a commitment to it by achieving a set of diversity metrics completely disconnected from employee competencies. Diversity is the new standard, not ability or experience.
For example, Starbucks recently made the decision to include diversity goals as a key metric in calculating executive leadership bonuses each year instead of just profitability metrics. In December 2020, the NASDAQ filed a proposal with the Security Exchange Commission (SEC) to “require all companies listed on Nasdaq’s U.S. exchange to publicly disclose consistent, transparent diversity statistics regarding their board of directors…or explain why they do not have, at least two diverse directors, including one who self-identifies as female and one who self-identifies as either an underrepresented minority or LGBTQ+.” If you think this will only impact the large Fortune 500 or publicly traded companies without trickling down to your small or medium sized business, think again. Grocery stores are beginning to label items based on the ethnicity of their owners. An individual recently berated the employees of a small business and caused an unpleasant environment for their customers, accusing them of “stealing black culture.” These are not fringe examples impacting a few organizations, they are just a few pieces of evidence which demonstrate a mainstream shift in business thinking where virtue signaling has become a part of the competitive landscape.
Businesses, regardless of their size or industry, will not have the ability to turn a blind eye to this shift in thinking. If you do not comply, it will be demanded of you by clients and employees. Even if it does not represent the majority, they will be the loudest, most disruptive of these individuals as a tactic towards influencing change. This is the narrative which has not only been established, but being fostered in the colleges your employees graduated from in the past decade or are now attending as graduate students. It is not merely a philosophy infused with critical race theory, intersectionality and equity, but one combined with a spirit of activism.
This combination doesn’t allow for a conversation or adherence to established authority within a corporation, it is only satisfied when tangible, immediate changes are made which align with their worldview. As Carl Trueman describes in his recent book, institutions “are places where one goes to perform, not the be formed – or, perhaps better, where one goes to be formed by performing.” Experience and authority are seen as archaic, invaluable and part of a system which leads to oppression. The expectation that every institution exists as a venue to allow individuals to perform has been established in the mind of those in the early stages of their careers and it will not stop at the graduation ceremony of their college. It will come crashing through your company’s front doors.
This approach to thinking about the world does not accept the premise that individuals should have the freedom to believe differently and make independent decisions on the basis of those views. It is not enough to simply allow people to make a purchasing decision or determine not to frequent an establishment based on a worldview which doesn’t align with their own. Their viewpoint does not allow this. They will never be satisfied until the person, business or institution accepts their view by demonstrating it in a tangible way and they will use any means necessary to accomplish this through a disruptive activism which threatens to undermine your business at every turn.
If you are not prepared to respond when this comes to your organization, it will take you by surprise. This is not merely some ideology which will blow over in a few months or a year. It is here to stay until every institution is dismantled and rebuilt according to one particular group’s worldview. The only way for it to stop is for the thousands of people who don’t agree with this approach to start taking a stand on these issues. Take a stand at your local school board, engage your elected representatives at the local, state and federal level to change the national narrative before it arrives at your workplace. And when it does come, be willing to have informed conversations with your executive leadership team about how CRT and equity training actually leads to inequality for everyone. Because when it comes to your company, how long do you think your conscience will allow you to stay.