Statement on President Trump's Attack on Critical Race Theory

AAUP president Irene Mulvey issued the following statement today:

On June 1, my predecessor, Rudy Fichtenbaum, issued a statement on protests that occurred in response to the murder of George Floyd. He acknowledged that “institutions of higher education have been part of the problem” of systemic racism, but said that “they can be part of the solution by marshaling the expertise of faculty and the energy of students in developing meaningful approaches to mitigating racism and inequality in our society.” Critical race theory represents an important body of such expertise and President Trump’s recent attack on it is a naked attempt to politicize our national reckoning with racism and a new escalation in the assault on expert knowledge.

Amid a global pandemic and a heightening climate crisis, the administration has denied and dismissed the efforts of scientists to address these challenges. Now, in ordering federal agencies to end trainings that address topics like white privilege and critical race theory, the administration denies and dismisses the efforts of experts across a wide variety of disciplines—such as law, history, social sciences, and humanities—to help us better understand and reckon with our legacy of slavery and persistent institutional racism.

In 1915 the AAUP’s founders warned of the “special dangers to freedom of teaching in the domain of the social sciences.” We have seen illustrations of these dangers throughout our history, and Trump’s attempt to suppress scholarly work on anti-Black racism, social justice, and the complex history of the United States illustrate for us again the prescience of that warning. Critical race theory is a vibrant and rigorous discipline. Few reasonable scholars would deny its importance and timeliness.

Previously the administration raised the specters of “political indoctrination” and “coercion” in an executive order on campus free speech that was largely, as the AAUP pointed out, “a solution in search of a problem.” Now President Trump hypocritically seeks to impose restrictions on the speech of government employees that would exceed by far any restrictions found on college campuses. That his administration does so to advance a political agenda best described as white supremacist makes these actions all the more reprehensible, dangerous, and truly un-American.

The AAUP calls on faculty and administrations to condemn this ban and, further, to actively support the work of critical race theorists and other academics who offer indispensable resources for understanding the past and present and for building a more racially just society.

Publication Date: 
Wednesday, September 9, 2020