This section of the Rostrum is dedicated to publishing the personal stories and perspectives of individual faculty members from community colleges around the state. The statements and stories included in this section come directly from the writers and may not reflect the positions or views of the ASCCC. Although these selections must meet the ASCCC’s publication standards, they will be edited less than other Rostrum articles in order to more fully preserve the writers’ voices.
A version of this article was also published with the National Association of Scholars.
In Fall 2021, the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges (ASCCC) voted to approve Resolution 03.01 F21 “Resources for Racial Justice and Critical Race Theory.”  The resolution preamble effectively defined critical race theory (CRT) as a focus on systemic racism stemming from 1970s legal scholars and expanding into a broad theoretical framework that challenges Eurocentricity and encourages activism to address inequalities. Though accurate, this definition omits key elements of CRT. A recent Rostrum article, “Getting to the Truth of It All: The Role and Impact of Critical Race Theory on Community Colleges” (Bean, Rocha, & Velez, 2021), explored additional arguments in support of CRT, but it too offered an insufficient description.
Incomplete characterizations conceal more troubling aspects of CRT and its recent corollary, anti-racism. CRT is not simply a theoretical framework that provides a racial justice and equity-minded lens. Rather, according to the specialists in the field, CRT is an exclusionary belief system about Eurocentric power structures, whiteness, and white people, who it claims systematically oppress all non-whites. Concomitant with the conceptual bifurcation of society into oppressor and oppressed roles, a CRT framework also invokes mandatory work that metes out presumed justice accordingly and vilifies alternative conceptualizations and solutions for engaging racial issues. Moreover, adherents reinterpret apathetic or skeptical responses as evidence of their fundamental claim of pervasive racism, and therefore the framework is functionally intolerant of alternative interpretations, open inquiry, and basic reasoning.
The ASCCC should publicly reject efforts to center CRT as the defining explanation for disparities and inequities in the California Community Colleges system. Instead, the ASCCC should promote broader inquiry and academic freedom to explore all aspects of race, inequality, and potential correctives.
A BETTER DEFINITION
A more complete definition of CRT for California community colleges, grounded in academic literature , might read as follows:
Critical Race Theory originates from critical theory, and critical legal theory specifically, and is a belief system based on the unproven assumption that racial disparities are chiefly products of pervasive structural inequalities caused by a political, cultural, and economic whiteness. A CRT framework uses equity and anti-racism as the mechanisms for the institutionalization of its assumptions, which demand policy changes to ensure equal group outcomes. Put another way, CRT is a belief system that views society as fundamentally racist, views institutions as perpetuating structural racism, views faculty as either allies or antagonists, views students as either oppressor or oppressed, and aims to equalize outcomes through the instrument of equity.
CRT is highly divisive and effectively forces everyone—adherent or not—into a totalizing framework as either oppressor or oppressed, thus stifling any alternative explorations of race and inequality. Bean, Rocha, and Velez (2021) observed that CRT is openly hostile to concepts such as “neutrality, meritocracy, and color blindness,” characterizing these historic virtues as mere vehicles to “perpetuate and maintain racism.” Indeed, Ibram X. Kendi (2019, p.9) asserted, “There is no in-between safe space of ‘not racist.’ The claim of ‘not racist’ neutrality is a mask for racism.” To be clear, any alternative viewpoint or academic lens that does not subscribe to this new orthodoxy is labeled a “mask for racism.”
Once sufficiently compliant to this belief system—and plenty of scholars have characterized CRT and anti-racism as a religion  —practitioners are then obligated to execute acts of institutional violence upon those deemed oppressors. Kendi has boldly claimed, “The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination” (Kendi, 2019, p.19). The beneficiaries and victims of these new policies are determined by broad racial stereotypes. No leeway is granted to the socio-economically deprived white person who is swiftly labeled a recipient of unearned privilege and an oppressor; no question may be asked of new entitlements provided to the middle-class person of color. Ostensibly, skin tone alone determines treatment in the new system of power.
Under a CRT and anti-racism framework, equity’s etymological roots of justice take on a very pointed and one-sided notion of that concept. Philosopher Peter Boghossian (2021) criticized this dogmatic redefinition of equity and suggested the term now simply means “making up for past discrimination with current discrimination.” The centering of CRT and anti-racism is no innocuous plea to support fairness and justice; it is a coercive demand to support a new era of discrimination under threat of moral if not professional coercion.
This relatively new and exclusionary orthodoxy is now colonizing educational systems and routing out viewpoint diversity. In 2020, the California Community College Curriculum Committee (5C) “created a set of recommended priorities that focuses on championing equity-minded curriculum and practices” to “begin conversations on how to redesign practices from working within a traditional Eurocentric model to working within an equity-minded framework” (5C, 2022). In spring 2022, the ASCCC approved Resolution 3.02 SP22 to formally adopt the 5C model, which would direct faculty to “intentionally design ethnic studies courses with discipline experts where critical race theory is a foundation.”  The model also demands faculty infuse CRT and anti-racism into all courses, even over the opposition of discipline experts. Additionally, the California Community Colleges Board of Governors is now entertaining changes to Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations (California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, n.d.) that would call on colleges and districts to evaluate faculty based on their allegiance to CRT and anti-racism, adding a looming threat for those who dare question the belief system. Such postures leave little space for intellectual skepticism or debate.
In the context of a more holistic understanding of CRT, ASCCC Resolution 3.01 F21 on racial justice and critical race theory prompts one to ask why the ASCCC would obligate the unquestioning institutionalization of any belief system, particularly one that maligns a racial group. The ASCCC has not historically endorsed a particular philosophical and political viewpoint and demanded faculty infuse it into courses and the tenure evaluation process.
RECOMMENDED NEXT STEPS
Individual instructors must enjoy the academic freedom to teach about CRT, but the ASCCC—as the official voice of California community college faculty—should not endorse any belief system that presupposes unquestionable tenants and quite possibly perpetuates the very problems it claims to remedy.
Open discourse and the unhindered search for truth stands as the cornerstone of higher education. This foundation ought not to be undermined. To that end, the following three recommendations are proposed for the ASCCC:
- The ASCCC should be supportive of faculty that openly question and critique CRT and anti-racism, as should be expected when faculty address any trending theory.
Any theory that requires a new and permanent way to view the world—in this case, through racial lenses that see power differentials as absolute objective reality—should be critiqued and submitted to robust discussion to allow free inquiry, critical analysis, and open dialogue. No theory is above question, and no faculty member should be marginalized for critiquing academic or social theories.
- The ASCCC should define CRT in a way that reflects the whole truth from the entire range of academic literature and clearly outlines the theory’s assumptions about racial characterizations and disparate treatment by race.
To date, neither the ASCCC nor any organization within the California Community Colleges system describes CRT in the same way as the CRT theorists do in their own writing. When the ASCCC and local colleges traffic in vague or under-defined euphemisms that carry loaded meanings, they create confusion and allow space for perceived directives that are inconsistent with our mission and Title VI obligations.
- Faculty from diverse perspectives and disciplines should be invited to join the ASCCC writing group that will develop the resources called for in Resolution 3.01 F21.
If the ASCCC is to support the right of California community college faculty to utilize CRT as a theoretical framework, as the resolution instructs, then the ASCCC also ought to support the inclusion of faculty with various perspectives on the writing team.
CRT proposes a philosophical framework that hinges upon racial power structures and racial stereotypes. The theory precludes any other explanations for disparity and demands discrimination to resolve perceived injustice, without ever seeking a complete understanding of the complex issues at play. It is an intolerant and all-encompassing dogma that demands allegiance under threat of professional consequences. If California community colleges are to serve a diverse population of critical thinkers, then every academic theory—even those that enjoy political support—ought to be open to debate.
Bean, M, Rocha, H., & Velez, M. (2021, November). Getting to the Truth of It All: The Role and Impact of Critical Race Theory on Community Colleges. Rostrum. https://asccc.org/content/getting-truth-it-all-role-and-impact-critical-race-theory-community-colleges.
Boghossian, P. (2021). Woke in Plain English: “Equity.” Video. https://boghossian.substack.com/p/woke-in-plain-english-equity?s=r.
California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office. (n.d.) Proposed Regulatory Action Amending Title 5, of the California Code of Regulations, to Include Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Standards in the Evaluation and Tenure Review of District Employees. https://www.cccco.edu/-/media/CCCCO-Website/Office-of-General-Counsel/final-text-deia-eval-and-tenure-rev-reg-45-day-3-2022-a11y.pdf.
California Community Colleges Curriculum Committee. (2022, February 25). DEI in Curriculum: Model Principles and Practices. California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office.https://asccc.org/sites/default/files/2022-03/DEI in Curriculum Model Principles and Practices_Final 2.25.22.docx
Kendi, I. (2019). How to Be an AntiRacist. One World Publishing.
1. Full text of Resolution 3.01 F21 can be found at https://asccc.org/resolutions/resources-racial-justice-and-critical-race-theory/
2. For an introduction to these concepts, see Delgado, R. & Stefancic, J.(2017). Critical Race Theory: An Introduction. New York University Press; Thompson, S.,ed. (2015). Encyclopedia of Diversity and Social Justice. Rowman & Littlefield; Delgado, R. & Stefancic, J., eds. (1997). Critical White Studies: Looking Behind the Mirror. Temple University Press; DiAngelo, R. (2018) White Fragility: Why It Is so Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. Beacon Press; Hooks, B. (1989). Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black. South End Press; Ozlem S. & and DiAngelo, R. (2011). Is Everyone Really Equal? An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Education. Teachers College Press.
3. McWhorter, J. (2021). Woke Racism: How a New Religion has Betrayed Black America. Portfolio/Penguin; Patterson, J. (2022, Spring). Wokeness and the New Religious Establishment. National Affairs, No. 51; Polet, J. (n.d.). Campus and the Anti-racists. Modern Age. forthcoming.
4. The full text of Resolution 3.02 S22 is available at https://www.asccc.org/resolutions/adopt-dei-curriculum-model-principles-and-practices-framework