There are educational transformations to the academic curriculums being debated by school boards across the nation to analyze and re-position biased narratives in American history and how civic lessons are taught in K-12. School boards are as divided as the political landscape, with the right espousing a “cancel culture” posture and the left embracing the concept of Critical Race Theory (CRT). According to Britannica, “CRT is an intellectual movement and loosely organized framework of legal analysis based on the premise that race is not a natural, biologically grounded feature of physically distinct subgroups of human beings but a socially constructed (culturally invented) category that is used to oppress and exploit people of color. Critical race theorists hold that the law and legal institutions in the United States are inherently racist insofar as they function to create and maintain social, economic, and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites, especially African Americans.”
The CRT concept fuels the “Cancel Culture” resistance to change, particularly among conservative whites, who have witnessed the destruction of symbols they have been taught to honor and consider patriotic icons–i.e., the Confederate flag, Civil War Military leaders and Christopher Columbus statues deemed offensive by many Americans, especially people of color.
Educators, communicators, and marketers are faced with the challenge of a racially divided nation with either side fixating on the past, because fundamentally the past is at the core of where we as a nation developed biases. How do we move on? —how do we change the bias within all of us? While this may be the question of the hour, elected officials and racial justice leaders have begun to acknowledge America’s past while at the same time recognizing the progress it has made to right the wrongs that have been done to people of color. Behavioral Scientists say imprints left in a child’s mind occur as early as the nursery rhymes and stories we find in most pre-school libraries.
A headline from Spring 2021 in The New York Times read, Dr. Seuss Books are Pulled, and a Cancel Culture Controversy Erupts. The BBC’s headline echoed, “Dr Seuss: Six books withdrawn over ‘hurtful’ and wrong imagery.” The books were pulled by Seuss’ own estate– a sign of the times that impacted a beloved brand. The family perhaps understood the context of some of his earlier books was a tragic reflection of the times when they were written and should not make a child who recognizes him/herself feel less than.
The history of racism within the education curriculums stems back to the Brown v. Board of Education, a landmark 1954 Supreme court case in which justices ruled unanimously that segregation of children in public school was unconstitutional. In 1952, Oliver Brown filed a class-action lawsuit against the Topeka Board of Education after his daughter, Linda Brown, was denied entrance to Topeka’s all white elementary school. Brown argued that “schools for black children were not equal to white schools, and segregation violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.” CRT models take equality and social justice to another level and promote the idea of storytelling and counter-storytelling as forming racial imprints and biases in our children as an effective tool to educate society. The New York City Dyckman Valley Magnet Schools of Innovation in a Global Community have already adopted a Culturally Responsive Education model that would establish a shared understanding of equity, privilege, and ways to identify, challenge and mitigate bias.
The building blocks of the bias within all of us is constructed at an early age by our teachers, parents, our personal experiences. As we grow and mature in society, these biases remain all the way to the C-Suite.
On the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s killing, PR Newswire reported on a survey that revealed “a harsh assessment” of diversity, equity & inclusion, (DE&I), by citing that “40% of CEO’s indicate, (DE&I) is a waste of time.” Moreover, 34 percent of staffers agree with C-Suites executives on this.
The survey leaves the impression that corporate DE&I is at its infancy. “Businesses and leaders play a critical role in creating more equitable and inclusive cultures, and our benchmark shows that they have a long road ahead,” says Tai Wingfield, EVP, DE&I, United Minds, a Weber Shandwick consultancy that conducted the survey. “We found a substantial and concerning gap between ambition and impact that needs to be addressed.” On the other hand, the survey offers a mixed message. A significant majority consider DE&I crucial to reputation, recruitment and the bottom line, the survey of 1,527 full-time employees at large companies in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. clearly indicates.”
Survey aside, at Comunicad we see across industries, companies looking critically at everything they do—from hiring and retention efforts of diverse employees to the everyday language being used to talk about race and equity. One thing is certain—this is a movement, not a moment—and companies have been playing catch up for too long. CCAD’s model for building multicultural narratives that resonate with communities of color is captured in our approach to the Language of Equity, a tool we implement for trusted brands. There’s a new level of responsibility on brands around social justice issues. Consumers and employees expect companies to step up— so what you say, and how you say it, is critical.
As we share time with family this summer, let’s be mindful of how Grandpa will tell his stories. How will Dad change the narrative of stories for his children? Need help on where to begin? Look into the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES). The Smithsonian has stepped up and launched the Bias Inside Us, a travelling exhibition tour and community-engagement project aimed at raising awareness about the social science and psychology of implicit bias and how bias impacts the world around us. Comunicad is a proud sponsor of The Bias Inside Us, and the creative way the exhibit educates visitors about how to recognize their own biases and how to disrupt and change those biases in their lives and communities.
Visit https://biasinsideus.si.edu/ to learn more about educational resource for addressing the bias afflicting our nation, and how bias is an innate human trait; we all have it. Being aware of our biases can help us change their influence and impact on our behaviors and worldview. The project will visit forty communities over four years. The Bias Inside Us tour was launched in January 2021 at the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul.
CEO-Founder Comunicad, Advisory Board-SITES