Harvard hosts lecture promoting critical race theory

During a lecture hosted by the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, a speaker called the founder of critical race theory one of his ‘heroes.’

The lecture belongs to a speaker series, which ‘examines how reparative practices, truth commissions, and institutional reckoning with structural oppression provide ways forward for equitable change.’

Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government recently hosted “How to Achieve Racial Justice through Organizational Transformation: Models that Work.”  According to the event page, the lecture was “a conversation with two pioneering architects of racial equity tools for the workplace, higher education and non-profits.”

The event page says that the lecture “is a part of the ‘Looking Back, Paying it Forward’ speaker series,” which “examines how reparative practices, truth commissions, and institutional reckoning with structural oppression provide ways forward for equitable change.”

The Kennedy School’s Institutional Antiracism and Accountability (IARA) Project co-hosted the event. IARA’s website describes itself as a project that “focuses on using research and policy to promote antiracism as a core value and institutional norm.” 

“To profoundly transform institutions, diversity and inclusion work is not sufficient when addressing structural processes that are rooted in traditions of racial exclusion and privilege and/or discriminate based on group disparities,” it goes on to say. 

[RELATED: Streetman discusses new “Race and Resistance Studies” major]

“How to Achieve Racial Justice through Organizational Transformation” featured Gail Christopher and Glenn Singleton. Christopher is the Executive Director of the National Collaborative for Health Equity, which “promote[s] health equity by fostering racial healing and equity, harnessing data, and [sic] developing leaders, and catalyzing partnerships.” 

Singleton is the Founder and President of “Courageous Conversation,” an “award-winning protocol for effectively engaging, sustaining and deepening interracial dialogue.” He also authored Courageous Conversations About Race, a book describing “the need for candid, courageous conversations about race so that educators may understand why achievement inequality persists.”

Singleton discussed how Courageous Conversation addresses racism. “There are three other components that are really important, and one of those components is critical race theory,” Singleton said. He went on to reference one of his “heroes,” Derrick Bell, the Harvard Law School professor who introduced critical race theory (CRT) in the 1980s. 

Critical race theory (CRT), according to an interview with professors at Columbia Law School, is a loose framework that originally “dissected the idea that law was just and neutral.” CRT examines “‘law’s role platforming, facilitating, producing, and even insulating racial inequality in our country, ranging from health to wealth to segregation to policing.’” 

[RELATED: CRT, social justice appear in AP curriculum across US]

Christopher discussed one component of CRT early in the lecture when she said that “racism created race.” CRT teaches that race is a social construct, or a category created by people. 

“When I say racism created race, I’m referring to the taxonomy of humanity that was created by the Swedish botanist, Carl Linneaus in the 1700s where human groups were organized according to their countries of origins and racial identities and prescribed character traits,” Christopher told Campus Reform. Christopher said that people used this taxonomy to justify slavery and colonization. 

In the lecture, she also referenced another idea from CRT: laws as a mechanism for one group to maintain power over another. “Just as this false ideology of a hierarchy of human value is the DNA of America, violence is the DNA of America,” Christopher said. 

Christopher told Campus Reform that the “violence” describes “the violence that was required to oppress an intelligent and capable population.” She said that America experienced a “cycle of violence” as slave rebellions “were repressed violently.” 

Campus Reform has previously reported on college courses informed by CRT and legislative efforts to ban it from state-funded universities. 

In December, the University of Chicago announced a course, “The Problem Of Whiteness,” for the spring 2023 semester. Bills introduced in Indiana and New Hampshire proposed banning teaching the idea that a group of people is inherently racist. 

Rep. Rick Ladd, the sponsor of the New Hampshire bill, said in a committee hearing that “‘[a]ny instruction promoting that racism is alive and well in New Hampshire does not reflect post-secondary education.’”

In an interview with the Concord Monitor, Ladd said, “‘Advocating CRT is discriminatory and does not reflect New Hampshire’s way of life, and certainly doesn’t align with Dr. [Martin Luther] King’s vision.’” 

Campus Reform contacted Harvard University and Singleton for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.