On not Jumping the Gun in Objecting to Critical Social Justice Theories

Hello, all.

We have become aware of a few situations in which people have responded strongly in opposition to a policy at their work, university or children’s school when it would have been wiser to wait for or ask for more information before responding.

Because people are becoming increasingly aware of buzzwords which can presage the imposition of Critical Social Justice (CSJ) ideas upon an institution – diversity, equity, inclusion, bias, hate speech etc. – it is common for people to fill in the gaps and anticipate (often correctly) that something ideological and authoritarian in the realms of CSJ is incoming.

However, it is important not to jump the gun and assume this until it is stated explicitly. There are reasonable, liberal & ethical policies that institutions can and should adopt to enable them to deal with genuine incidents of prejudice or bullying on the grounds of race, gender or sexuality etc. Sometimes they may use the same language as that used by Critical Social Justice because there is pressure to do so or simply because this is the mainstream language now.

If you receive notification of some kind of policy or program that uses this language but does not explicitly state that it will be using critical race theory, queer theory or decolonial theory, refer to any of the theorists in these fields, make any ideological claims about things like ‘whiteness’ or ‘gender identity’ or refer to the largely discredited ‘Implicit Association Test (IAT)’ or “Unconscious Bias Training (UBT),” the best course of action is to seek more detailed information.

This is the time to ask questions. Reply to the notification expressing your approval of policies to oppose prejudice and bullying and then ask what precisely they mean by the words that have raised red flags in your mind. You can leave it at that or you could be bolder and more specific yourself and say that you are aware that some companies/universities/schools have been using unscientific methods like UBT  or controversial and shoddy racial or gender theories that many principled opponents of racism/sexism/transphobia cannot support. You have no reason to suspect your own company/university/school would go down this misguided path but wanted to seek reassurance that this is not what is meant by the communication you have received.

By asking questions in this way and emphasizing your own support of ethical policies against racism and other forms of prejudice and discrimination, you can avoid making unwarranted assumptions while at the same time making your employer/university/children’s school aware that you know about CSJ and will oppose it from a principled standpoint if necessary.

By jumping the gun and objecting to something which may or may not be CSJ, you run the risk of:

  1. Objecting to something that is perfectly ethical that you would actually want to support. (We know employers are setting up policies which deliberately avoid CSJ methods because several have contacted us for advice on how to do this)
  2. Appearing to be reactionary and objecting to any kind of action against prejudice and bullying, thus reducing your own ability to make a credible principled objection to CSJ approaches at a later date, should this be warranted.   

Be cautious in your approach and make sure you have all the facts before acting.

Best

Helen