Back in 2013, I had just left corporate America to hang out my shingle. I was a writing fool, taking every silly thing I’d experienced in corporate America to task.
You can have the perfect training, executed flawlessly. But if the training is aimed at rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, and not at navigation in freezing waters, your priorities are wrong, and you are wasting energy and money on the wrong “needs”.
With decades behind me as the head of corporate Learning in some pretty big companies, I grew so tired of people thinking they could “fix” serious interpersonal problems (you know….conflict, leadership, teams, etc.) with a training session. Oh, and for heaven’s sake, don’t make the session longer than an hour. We have important “real” work to do.
Nine-hundred and ninety-nine times out of 1,000, training wasn’t the answer. It would have been (maybe) a band-aid on a gaping wound, but the blood would keep seeping through.
Training doesn’t change behavior. Period.
Enter corporate training on unconscious bias
I said that politely: unconscious bias. Apparently, some organizations have less polite names for their training: how about a “three-day whiteness retreat for white male executives?” Yeah, that’ll make me feel singled out!
In 2018, Starbucks closed their stores for a day to hold “Unconscious Bias” training after a Philadelphia store denied a black customer access to their restroom. The consultant who designed the training admitted that the effort would only be as good as leadership who hold folks accountable for behavior. So at least she “got” that training is only a nano-part of what might actually bring change. She probably couldn’t “sell” anything more. Been there, done that. Yessir – we’ll pour everything into an hour of training so you can get back to the “real” work.
The events of the past year have everyone jumping on the bandwagon with anti-racism training. Companies are outsourcing training to consultants who claim they can “teach” those pesky white males how they have been horrible people for centuries. Ouch.
Talk about resistance – I’m not sure I’d want to be called out about being biased in front of my peers.
Then there are the states that are spending time enacting laws that prohibit teachers from teaching “critical race theory.” Back to the band-aid on the gaping wound….do we know they really are teaching “critical race theory?” And if the curricula content for critical race theory spans every single action of every white, black, purple, green, yellow or <insert any unique feature> individual who has “dissed” another of a different race or gender, which specific action do we leave out? Which action do we include? Who decides?
Where did Critical Race Theory come from?
Okay, I’m gonna use a left-leaning MSM (aka mainstream media) source here. If you don’t trust it, I’d suggest doing your own research, but it seems pretty fact-laden to me and clearly is worth more exploration and dialogue. According to a New Yorker article in June 2021, a legal scholar named Kimberlé Crenshaw and colleagues founded a critical race theory workshop in 1989 to study the premise that the so-called American dilemma was not simply a matter of prejudice but a matter of “structured disadvantages that stretched across American society.” Oops….sounds like systemic racism. Now, you can argue that there is no such thing. I would invite you to read Isabel Wilkerson or Emmanuel Acho. But you probably won’t.
In reality, that concept was positive, as it seemed to give a pass to individual prejudice in favor of structural mores that were in place that may have framed thoughts and actions. Maybe we (individually) weren’t that bad; we just had external influences.
Let’s go back now to CRT and fast forward to 2018 when a journalist recognized a trend in anti-racism training in the news and decided to dig into the history of critical race theory, then wrote about it. He got A LOT of attention from Fox News, and ultimately from the President, himself. His writing was profoundly timely, as “liberal” movements such as BLM and MeToo were grabbing the headlines and he sensed a rising tide of resistance.
This self-professed “brawler” spotted kindling and took out a really big bellows to stoke the fire that had been simmering for years…decades….centuries. He took a scholarly concept and gave “the issue” a name: Critical Race Theory.
He travelled to the White House to help draft a law that prohibited the teaching of “critical race theory.” You know, there is a part of me that says, “Right on, brother! We know that stuff doesn’t work.” But that is based on my feelings about training, not on whether we do or do not have systemic racism.
So, let’s just stop the CRT BS
We have a new label; a new “thing” to make a group of people righteously indignant. Let’s put that in the new Dictionary alongside Identity Politics, Patriots, Red States/Blue States, Socialism, Radicalism, or….real Americans.
With each “label” that we don’t agree with, our blood pressure and defensiveness escalate to unhealthy levels. Our finger gets stuck in the “pointing at them” position and our brain turns off any inclination we may have had to listen.
We begin to avoid “them” – those who might say something we don’t agree with (was there once a time when we could actually be friends with someone who “leaned” differently? And did we even know their leaning?)
We could change things
It is not out of the realm of possibility that we could change things. How?
We could start by putting our fingers in our ears and saying “Na na na na na” when we hear a label. Then, after a few deep breaths, we could ask the speaker to avoid using labels and talk directly about issues. Oh, and then both sides would have to listen.
We could have a serious talk with ourselves about who we have become, and how we may have lost our individuality to a pseudo-identity. This takes some guts. I know. I’ve had the conversation. It’s painful.
We can learn to look at our friends and family without the red or blue lens. It’s hard. We believe strongly in what we believe. But why?
There’s a meme floating around that goes something like this: If you repeat a lie long enough, it becomes
truth politics. Yeah. Sounds right. We are all brainwashed, whether we watch MSM or dig deeper into “our own research.” Whether we are red or blue. Whether we are conservative or liberal.