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Dean of FAMU College of Law explains what critical race theory and equity training actually are


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Photo: Deidre Keller


On Wedneday, Gov. Ron DeSantis unveiled  the Stop WOKE Act. The bill — if approved by the Florida Legislature — would ban critical race rheory in K-through-12 schools.

And it would let parents sue over it.

But there’s a lot of confusion about critical race theory, which has become a hot-button political issue.

To clear up some of that confusion, WMFE’s Joe Byrnes spoke with Deidré Keller, dean of the Florida A&M University College of Law in Orlando.

WMFE: Can you tell us what critical race theory actually is?

DEAN DEIDRE KELLER: So critical race theory is an intellectual and theoretical movement that started in law schools. Back in the late ’70s and early ’80s. It builds on some much more ancient, if you will, legal theories, starting with legal realism. … From legal realism, we move to critical legal studies, which put at the center of its framework the economic economic power.

And then from critical legal studies, we move to critical race theory, which put at the center of its analytical framework racial power. And so critical race theory is really an analytical framework built on these prior philosophical approaches that centers race and the impact of race in American society and law in its analysis.

WMFE: It’s undeniable, right, that systematic racial discrimination is a big part of American history? I mean slavery, Jim Crow laws, lynchings, segregation, economic discrimination, those are real things. They are not imaginary. And they are part of American history. Does teaching those facts mean you’re teaching critical race theory.

KELLER: It absolutely does not. So presumably teaching about slavery is just teaching American history. What critical race theory asks of largely legal practitioners — although the theory has been taken up in other sort of graduate studies areas — is that we consider where we are today in the context of that history.

WMFE: The proposed law would also defund diversity, equity and inclusion training and make it a civil rights violation, creating a hostile work environment, for private companies to use it. Explain for us, if you would, what DEI training is and how it relates to civil rights.

KELLER: So DEI training takes many forms. And it really depends on the specific challenges faced by the organization and its goals and objectives vis-a-vis diversity, equity and inclusion, which of course requires us to think a little bit about what we mean by diversity, equity and inclusion, right?

So diversity really asks the question, Does the organization reflect the diversity of the surrounding community, the state, etc.? It’s important to note here that most organizations, when they’re thinking about diversity aren’t just thinking about racial diversity. They’re thinking about gender diversity. They’re thinking about gender expression, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, religion, a great number of aspects of diversity.

Equity and inclusion are really about retaining. Once you have attracted diverse talent, how do you retain them, right? So equity asks, Does everyone in the organization have an opportunity to participate and excel, right, without regard to their race, gender, economic, socio-economic status, etc.? And then inclusion really asks, Does everyone in the organization have a voice?

WMFE: It looks like DEI training would create the opposite of a hostile work environment. Is that your impression?

KELLER: That would be the hope.


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Joe Byrnes

About Joe Byrnes

Reporter

Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.

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