Joint Statement of the Deans of the University of California Law Schools About the Value of Critical Race Theory

September 11, 2020

Dear UC law school community and friends,

As the Deans of the five University of California law schools, we write with one voice to defend Critical Race Theory and to speak against the attacks upon it by the President of the United States and the Office of Management and Budget. The faculties of the UC law schools include many of the leading scholars in Critical Race Theory (CRT) and our law schools engage in a good deal of important scholarship, teaching and policy work about how race and racial oppression shape law and society. We are enormously proud of our CRT colleagues and the important work they do, and we are deeply distressed to see the federal government attack this important intellectual tradition, caricature it in an unjustified and divisive manner, and ban federal employees from learning about it through trainings.

On September 4th, the Director of the Office Management and Budget, at the direction of the President, banned any training within the federal government related to Critical Race Theory, calling it “anti-American propaganda.” The OMB memorandum equates Critical Race Theory to two inaccurate and wildly oversimplified tenets: (1) that the United States is “an inherently racist or evil country” and (2) that white people are “inherently racist or evil.” This characterization reduces a sophisticated, dynamic field, interdisciplinary and global in scope, to two simplistic absurdities.  In fact, a central principle of Critical Race Theory is that there is nothing “inherent” about race.  Rather, CRT invites us to confront with unflinching honesty how race has operated in our history and our present, and to recognize the deep and ongoing operation of “structural racism,” through which racial inequality is reproduced within our economic, political, and educational systems even without individual racist intent. 

We cannot stand silent in the face of the OMB’s absurd claim that Critical Race Theory is “contrary to all we stand for as Americans and should have no place in the federal government.” CRT is most assuredly not contrary to what we stand for. The intellectual value of Critical Race Theory is something we experience every day, through the brilliance of the numerous CRT scholars whom we are proud to call our colleagues. The work of these scholars has shaped legislation, court cases, programs, and policies. Indeed, much of their work is precisely what we would hope that federal employees would receive training about. If employees learned about the theory of intersectionality, it might help them understand why Black women face a larger wage gap than either white women or Black men, and help motivate federal programs that try to address the disparities they face. When federal employees learn about the dangers of and the pervasiveness of implicit bias, it can spur improved processes and fairer decisions about who gets a job or receives a federal contract. 

We also see, every day, the ways our students benefit from the learning and the teaching of Critical Race Theory as part of their education. Many of our students who go on to public service, or who dedicate themselves deeply to pro bono work, or who work in profound ways to make the world and the legal system more truly equal, do so having been deeply inspired by the critical race scholars from whom they have had the opportunity to learn at our law schools. 

We are proud of the diversity within our communities, including our faculty, students, staff and alumni, while we recognize that each of our institutions have further work to do to become more deeply anti-racist. We know that the perspectives, critiques, and engagements that CRT offers are needed more now than ever.  They are not in the least “anti-American propaganda” – rhetoric redolent of McCarthyism and the Red Scare, deeply anti-intellectual episodes in our own history – but rather, quite necessary to our hopes for an America that will someday live up to its promise of equality for all. 

Sincerely,

Erwin Chemerinsky
Dean and Jesse H. Choper Distinguished Professor of Law
UC Berkeley School of Law

David L. Faigman
Chancellor and Dean
John F. Digardi Distinguished Professor of Law
University of California Hastings College of the Law

Kevin Johnson
Dean
UC Davis School of Law

Jennifer Mnookin
Dean and Ralph and Shirley Shapiro Professor of Law
UCLA School of Law

L. Song Richardson
Dean and Chancellor’s Professor of Law
University of California Irvine School of Law

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