#BannedWords Campaign

Counter-Narrating the Attacks on Critical Race Theory

While President Biden rescinded the executive order banning racial equity training and replaced it with one to advance racial equity, opponents to racial justice have introduced upwards of 20 state legislative bills, some passed, that would ban racial equity work in government and education on race in schools. Versions of this argument have now passed as legislation and are already becoming a central debate in countless school districts across the country. 
The bills themselves are all vulnerable to court challenges (President Trump’s Executive Order was blocked by a federal judge), but the danger to racial equity is not at the level of policy, but rather narrative. Using slogans like “Stop Racism. Stop Hate” this Orwellian effort to frame the discussion of racism to be racism against white people is undermining the momentum recently gained by the racial justice movement.
Download this guide to craft your response to these attacks, whether you are a parent, activist, or government worker.
And contact Race Forward at media@raceforward.org if you want to work with Race Forward’s team to develop (and potentially pitch) your story in support of education and training on systemic racism.


Register for the June 14th #BannedWords Webinar

Opponents to racial justice have introduced at least twenty state legislative bills that would ban racial equity work in government and in schools. These bills are based in fear that talking about race will actually unite us across our differences. Don't let extremist voices shut down these important conversations. Join us for an upcoming webinar: ‘Banned Words: Responding to Efforts to Prohibit Conversations About Racism in Government and Schools' on Monday, June 14, 2021 from 11am–12pm Eastern. REGISTER HERE, and let's continue to work toward building a more just and inclusive world.

Silhouette of person with curly hair in black on sea green background. A ripped strip of paper with hashtag #bannedwords followed by words in expressive writing: Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, Systemic Racism, White Privilege, Unconscious Bias.

What are Trump’s #BannedWords and why do they matter?

On September 22, 2020, President Donald Trump issued Executive Order 13950, titled “Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping,” which bans racial justice work in federal government. This ban extends to all federal employees, agencies, contracts, and grants.

In particular, the Order directs federal employees to look for certain keywords and to take action to end any programs, grants, or contracts that include them and punish any employees who use them. The #BannedWords include: “systemic racism”, “unconscious bias”, "critical race theory”, "white privilege", "positionality”, "racial humility”, and "intersectionality.”

Within weeks of the Executive Order, hundreds of anti-racist programs were cancelled. Countless more have been pulled. Trump’s intention is to attempt to stop a historically unprecedented racial justice movement in its tracks by censoring the language that we use to name racism. Each of these #BannedWords illuminate racism’s broad and deep impacts. We can’t end racism if we can’t name it.

Because of our justice movements, these #BannedWords have become part of everyday language. According to our research, U.S. media used the words “systemic racism” more in June 2020 than in the previous 30 years combined. This is because the majority of Americans recognize and want to have measured, meaningful conversations about the historic and continuing impact of white privilege and racism.

Trump’s Executive Order is anti-free speech, anti-American, and anti-freedom. Yet if it is not rescinded, it could have a chilling effect on racial justice work far beyond federal government, potentially impacting businesses, arts institutions, schools, and universities.

Race Forward is organizing in communities, governments, the arts and culture sector, education, and everywhere racial justice work is done to prevent this from taking place. Join us in fighting to stop Trump’s Executive Order! Call on the Biden administration to rescind the Order and issue a new EO centering racial justice in all of its work.

What can you do?