#BannedWords Campaign

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

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.

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 Yet if it is not rescinded, it could have a chilling effect on racial justice work far beyond federal government, potentially impacting businesses, arts institutions, schools, and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.

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