Effects of Organized Attacks on Racial Equity,
Social Justice Frameworks, and Critical Studies
As part of AAPF’s response to organized attacks on critical race theory, intersectionality, and other forms of racial justice discourse, we want to hear from you! We invite you to complete our survey to let us know how you have been affected by disinformation, distortions, or censorship of honest conversations about our country’s history of structural racism and inequity.
Just before he left office, Donald Trump issued executive order 13950 (the “Equity Gag Order“), banning essential training in September 2020, banning essential training and federal grant projects that address systemic racism and sexism. President Biden revoked the gag order in January 2021, but in the short time it was in effect it had widespread and devastating impacts. The State Department canceled all diversity trainings for its 76,000 employees; universities paused programs including trainings on race or sex stereotyping; researchers that use critical race concepts were warned that their grant applications would be thrown out; and some public lectures, including one on Hispanic heritage, were abruptly canceled. In one particularly telling instance, the University of Mississippi rejected a $42,000 grant to support a political education project on mass incarceration and immigrant detention for fear that the project would be prohibited under the order.
Though revoked at the federal level, states are now jumping on the anti-racial justice bandwagon, introducing bills that, like the original Equity Gag Order, serve as authoritarian tools intended to silence those working to hold honest conversations about the history and continuing legacies of injustice in America. As intended, a climate of fear is spreading like wildfire in state after state across government agencies, businesses, schools, and civil society.
These gag orders reflect the formal adoption of a twisted ideology that treats racial justice advocates as the actual racists in the workplace. Their proponents believe, as Trump did, that “[c]ritical race theory, the 1619 Project, and the crusade against American history is toxic propaganda, ideological poison that, if not removed, will dissolve the civic bonds that tie us together. It will destroy our country.” What started in the racist fringe is now being openly embraced and promoted in legislatures across the country.
If you have been affected by these state efforts, you are not alone. The abuse of power to muzzle educators and activists is not new. We witnessed it in the 1960s with the FBI’s efforts to demonize Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Black Freedom Movement. During the 1950s McCarthy Era, the Senate, and House led witch hunts that destroyed lives and ruined careers by accusing justice-oriented people of being subversive agents and un-American traitors. And we see it today as Black Lives Matter activists are labeled “Black Identity Extremists" and treated as dangerous dissidents because they dare to declare that Black lives have value. Having been marked by the federal government, leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement now face threats from white supremacist terrorists.
The metastasizing of the equity gag order threatens to roll back 50 years of civil rights progress and take us back to a period in our nation’s history when speaking up for social justice was met with imprisonment, censorship, financial ruin, and state-sanctioned death. But we refuse to go back to those days.
If you would like to join our #TruthBeTold movement by sharing your experiences on how state and local legislation, regulations, or policies have impacted your job, workplace or community, please fill out our survey which serves as a forum for people to communicate when, where, and how people have been affected so far.