Paulette Granberry Russell, J.D.
President's Message

Too often in the public arena, especially in an era where social media and sound bites form the basis of public discourse, theories are distilled in ways that oversimplify the complexities of concepts and premises that form the basis of a theory. This is especially true today where efforts to create a more racially just country has resulted in demands to ban the teaching of “Critical Race Theory” (CRT). These demands are often voiced without defining what it means, or its place in higher education, including law schools and not, as being misrepresented, a part of the curriculum in K-12. CRT emerged in the late 20th Century led by legal scholars of color who critiqued the legal discourse on race and the failure of American jurisprudence to consider the role of race in how the laws in the United States were formulated.

Some social scientists have asserted that CRT provides an important framework for studying racial phenomena within our systems and social structures. They argue that CRT provides explanation for the long-standing continuity of racial inequality and can serve as a means for making sense of systemic inequities that permeate our social, legal, and political life and undoubtedly impact daily how people of all identities relate to and interact with each other.  

One need only to look at recent events to see that indeed race continues to define one’s experiences in this country.  How can we not grieve and be appalled at the deaths of Black lives at the hands of police or notice the disparities in health care and the disproportionate loss of Black lives due to COVID-19.  We can look to governmental policies past and present such as redlining, minimum wage policies, voter suppression, and redistricting as an example of how race still factors in voting rights, owning a home, and suppressed incomes. 

Racism has been and is a basic fact of history and practice embedded in the fabric of the U.S.  Unfortunately, today's call to ban CRT is another example of attempts to sanitize history and the reality of those who have been oppressed based on the color of their skin, contrary to the notions of a country that is “color-blind”.  NADOHE cannot acquiesce to attempts to erase history and silence academic voices and intellectual pursuits. Chief diversity officers work with faculty, staff, students, and appropriate institutional governance structures to promote inclusive teaching and learning across the curriculum, and advocate for inclusive excellence in research, creativity, and scholarship in all fields as fundamental to the work of higher education. The work of the CDO includes drawing on the existing scholarship and evidence-based practices to provide intellectual leadership in advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion. (NADOHE Standards of Professional Practice Five, Six and Seven).

Each of us has the power to speak up, educate, and advocate for strategies and policies that prohibit discrimination, and work with our institutions to end racism.  As Isabel Wilkerson so aptly states in the epilogue of her book, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, “We are responsible for our own ignorance or, with time and openhearted enlightenment, our own wisdom.  We are responsible for ourselves and our own deeds or misdeeds in our time and in our own space and will be judged accordingly by succeeding generations.”

Paulette Granberry Russell, J.D.
President, NADOHE



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