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‘People of color’ can’t be racist against whites, UW-Madison teaches law students


One UW-Madison student called the materials ‘incredibly toxic’

A mandatory diversity training at the University of Wisconsin-Madison teaches students “people of color” cannot be racist against white people.

The first-year law student training, developed by consultant Debra Leigh, also says it is racist for someone to say they are colorblind – and to ask for help with not being racist.

The list, required reading prior to the “Re-Orientation” includes 28 ways in which certain attitudes and behaviors “indicate a detour or wrong turn into white guilt, denial or defensiveness.” Students were also asked to fill out a “race timeline worksheet” with at least “7 significant moments” that were connected to race and identity.

The Big Ten University’s session follows the university system’s decision to cut back on diversity-related materials in exchange for $800 million in funding from the state, as previously reported by The College Fix.

The materials drew criticism from a prominent legal advocacy group in the state as well as several UW-Madison undergraduate students who spoke to The Fix.

Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty attorney Skylar Croy, a UW-Madison graduate, criticized the mandatory Jan. 19 training via a media statement given to The College Fix shortly after publication.

Croy suggested legal action could be on the table, telling The Fix:

We are still reviewing our options, but WILL has a proven track record of taking DEI head on. WILL has filed a dozen of lawsuits against the Biden Administration to promote true equality for all and end race-based discrimination. We have not lost yet. The recent Harvard [affirmative action] decision has opened a new legal landscape that we are taking full advantage of.

Leigh (pictured) believes “people of color” cannot be racist.

“People of color, as a social group, do not have the societal, institutional power to oppress white people as a group,” the training states. “An individual person of color abusing a white person – while clearly wrong, (no person should be insulted, hurt, etc.) is acting out a personal racial prejudice, not racism.”

But white people who want to learn more about racism are also racist, Leigh, who works on “anti-racism” issues at St. Cloud State University, also stated.

“I want to stop acting like a racist, so please tell me when I do something you think is racist,” is a “common racist [attitude]” or behavior, according to the sheet.

“While it is vitally important for white anti-racists to work with other white people, this detour again results in white people controlling the direction and focus of anti-racist work,” Leigh explains.

Several students interested in law school weighed in on the DEI materials.

RJ Hybben, a UW-Madison student majoring in legal studies, referred to the training as “incredibly toxic.”

“It’s critical race theory being taught to our future judges and lawyers,” Hybben told The Fix via social media messaging. “[S]omething that is incredibly toxic like that has no place in a courtroom.”

He does not think the DEI training should be mandatory, arguing that the “school should remove it.”

UW-Madison undergraduate Brenin Tenadu, who currently majors in legal studies and environmental studies, says training like this is necessary but disagrees with the messaging behind her school’s DEI material.

“I think that we should acknowledge institutional differences and try to correct them where we can, because they have been proven to exist,” Tenadu told The Fix via social media messaging, “[But], I think the way in which this particular project was executed made more people feel excluded than included in these kinds of conversations and that’s the opposite of what we want.”

After graduation, she plans on attending law school, with UW-Madison being one of her top choices.

DEI training fulfills American Bar Association requirement, school says

The university shared a statement in response to a College Fix inquiry.

“Friday’s session on diversity, equity, and inclusion for second semester 1L students was held in partial fulfillment of ABA Standard 303’s requirement that law schools provide education to their students on ‘bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism,’” the university stated.

“The session was interactive, with ample opportunities for students to engage in dialogue with each other,” a university spokesperson wrote in an email to The Fix. “A core goal was to help students develop their critical thinking skills with respect to these topics.”

“We do not expect students to automatically accept the views expressed in the document referred to, any more than they would the reasoning of a legal brief, judicial opinion, or their professors,” the spokesperson said. “Intellectual and academic freedom are core values of the Law School.”

“Accordingly, we welcome and encourage vigorous debate over important questions of law and policy, and this session provided a forum for such discourse,” the spokesperson said.

However, Croy, with the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, disputed the ABA requirement claim. He told The Fix “the problem is that that the new requirement gives schools a lot of discretion in executing it.”

“We believe a university does not have to embrace DEI to teach students about racism or discrimination.”

Editor’s note: The article has been updated with new comments from Croy.

MORE: 72 things higher ed declared racist in 2023

IMAGE: St. Cloud State University

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About the Author
Logan Dubil -- Point Park University