Boy, they sure love to say the quiet part out loud, huh?
A two-page document released late Friday by Office of Management and Budget Director Russel Vought effectively bans all federal agencies from using taxpayer dollars on racial sensitivity or other diversity and inclusion initiatives for workers.
"These types of 'trainings,'" the memo claims, "not only run counter to the fundamental beliefs for which our Nation has stood since its inception, but they also engender division and resentment within the Federal workplace." And then it gets worse from there:
The President has directed me to ensure that Federal agencies cease and desist from using taxpayer dollars to fund these divisive, un-American propaganda training sessions. […] All agencies are directed to begin to identify all contracts or other agency spending related to any training on "critical race theory," "white privilege," or any other training or propaganda effort that teaches or suggests either (1) that the United States is an inherently racist or evil country or (2) that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil.
The divisive, false, and demeaning propaganda of the critical race theory movement is contrary to all we stand for as Americans and should have no place in the Federal government.
This is, uhh, pretty unabashedly Draconian, to say the least. Regardless of one's feelings on critical race theory or white privilege, the idea of a government ban preventing workers from even encountering these perspectives runs counter to the First Amendment. There might be an argument to be made if, say, there were any demonstrable evidence that Critical Race Theory was actively harmful to a significant swath of Americans — an argument that could be made about Nazism, for example, and thus might justify a ban on spending Federal funds on Nazi workshops.
The only evidence they cite is this:
According to press reports, employees across the Executive Branch have been required to attend trainings where they are told that "virtually all White people contribute to racism" or where they are required to say that they "benefit from racism." According to press reports, in some cases these trainings have further claimed that there is racism embedded in the belief that America is the land of opportunity or the belief that the most qualified person should receive a job.
This is actually where they give themselves away. First: what "press reports?" That's about as meaningful as when Donald Trump claims "people are saying" — even if it were true, it would still be logically less comprehensive than anecdotal evidence!
Second: the motivation here is clearly to protect the feelings of White people, as evidenced by the fact that they cite exactly that as their examples for why racial sensitivity training is harmful. The lack of self-awareness here is truly astounding. They're openly saying that they don't care how a Black person feels when, say, an employer asks to touch their hair, or criticizes their natural hair for being "unprofessional." But! Making a white person feel bad about asking something with painful racist implications? Even if they didn't realize it, and genuinely want to do better? That is simply unacceptable! In fact, it's propaganda!
And that's exactly the fucking attitude that reinforces the idea that "whiteness" is some kind of default position. That white people are inherently "normal" and objective, and everyone who isn't white is thus "other" and their existence must be defined by their relationship to a vague notion of status quo white normalcy.
Third: "these trainings have further claimed that there is racism embedded in […] the belief that the most qualified person should receive a job." This is literally fucking true. A meta-analysis of job applications by researchers at Northwestern University, Harvard, and the Institute for Social Research in Norway found that, "Since 1989, whites receive on average 36% more callbacks than African Americans, and 24% more callbacks than Latinos." They've demonstrated this by submitting identical applications with different-sounding names, or using different accents on the phone to relay identical information. Unconscious bias in hiring practices is an absolutely real phenomenon. And these monsters are saying that it is "un-American propaganda" to acknowledge that fact?
But facts don't care about your feelings. And all this letter from the Office of Management and Budget does is reinforce the idea that Americans who are not descended from Europe will be begrudgingly accepted only if they shut up and assimilate.
The truth is: a lot of racial sensitivity workshops and Diversity/Equity/Inclusion workshops don't go far enough. I've gone to many of these trainings, and they are more often than not designed to touch on feel-good neoliberalism that doesn't actually make anyone reflect on their behaviors. In high school, I was an Education Officer for my school's Human Relations Club, overseeing an after school program where we went around to elementary schools to teach diversity workshops; looking back, I'm embarrassed to admit that I probably contributed to some of that nonsense! And I can recognize that, despite my good intentions and my whiteness, I may have been complicit in reinforcing a system of diversity pandering that was largely designed to make white people feel good.
So you can imagine my surprise when I read this passage, in a BBC article about this new OMB policy:
It was not clear which reports Mr Vought was referring to or what prompted the memo. But such training sessions have been highlighted by the Discovery Institute, a conservative non-profit think tank based in Seattle.
Chris Rufo, one of its research fellows, told Fox News this week that the US Department of Treasury is among federal agencies that have hired such trainers.
Mr Rufo says his public records requests show these sessions have included teaching employees that white people uphold America's system of racism, and sending white male executives to mandatory training in which they write letters of apology to minorities.
I have never seen any evidence that such workshop exists. Maybe it does! I'd want to know where you found the person in charge, and who it is, because this sounds like a terrible strategy for getting people to actually change their minds and behaviors about anything. I can absolutely see that backfiring and filling a white male executive with even more resentment. But again: you want to get rid of all DEI programs, because one bad one made one incredibly wealthy white guy feel bad? Get over it, snowflakes.
The fact that the OMB made this move at a time when our country is embroiled in a very serious conversation about diversity, equity, and inclusion as they relate to policing is particularly egregious. I literally went to a DEI workshop designed for police just last week; it was led by a Black psychologist and minister, and actually made me more empathetic to police.
The idea that consciously caring about diversity is "un-American propaganda" is yet another blatant reinforcement of white supremacy by the Trump Administration.
Training in the Federal Government [Office of Management and Budget / White House]
Image: Public Domain