Trump clamps down on diversity training

By on 05/10/2020
"A few weeks ago, I banned efforts to indoctrinate government employees with divisive and harmful sex and race-based ideologies. Today, I've expanded that ban to people and companies that do business with our country," Trump tweeted. (Official White House photo by Shealah Craighead via flickr).

President Trump has issued an executive order banning government contractors from providing employees with certain forms of diversity training. The order forbids what it calls “divisive concepts”, such as training sessions based on “race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating”.

The order prohibits training that implies that the US is a racist or sexist nation; that individuals bear responsibility for acts committed by members of their own race or sex; or that meritocracy in the US was created to favour members of certain races or sexes.

It also establishes a complaint procedure for employees made to take such training, including a hotline set up by the Labor Department. Contractors found to have violated the order’s terms may have their contracts “canceled, terminated, or suspended in whole or in part” and the vendor may be “ineligible for further government contracts”, the order says.

‘Anti-American’

The order is part of an initiative aimed at countering what the administration characterises as “offensive and anti-American” ideology, which it says is “appearing in workplace diversity trainings across the country”.

Such “destructive ideology… is designed to divide us and to prevent us from uniting as one people in pursuit of one common destiny for our great country” and “threatens to infect core institutions”, the order claims.

It gives the example of the Treasury, which the order says recently held a seminar that promoted arguments that “virtually all white people, regardless of how ‘woke’ they are, contribute to racism”. In other examples it cites training materials from Argonne National Laboratories, a federal entity, which said that racism “is interwoven into every fabric of America”; and a Smithsonian Institution museum graphic which stated that concepts like “hard work” being “the key to success,” the “nuclear family,” and belief in a single god are not values that unite Americans of all races but are instead “aspects and assumptions of whiteness”. 

In announcing the order on Twitter, Trump said: “Americans should be taught to take PRIDE in our Great Country, and if you don’t, there’s nothing in it for you!”

Backlash

Since the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police on 25 May, many US companies have issued statements of solidarity with the black community, promising to increase diversity among employees and provide inclusivity training. Since Trump’s order was released, scores of organisations have voiced concern that it will roll back progress.

Psyche Williams-Forson, who chairs the American Studies department at the University of Maryland, told Reuters that the order is a way to ease the minds of people who “do not want to confront the horror of their ancestry” and added that it would likely result in a sharp reduction in diversity training across the federal government. 

According to the Chicago Tribune, Scott Hoesman, CEO and founder of InQuest Consulting – which provides diversity and inclusion training to businesses and federal agencies – said a federal agency client cancelled its services last month in light of Trump’s order.

“It has politicised what we view as a nonpolitical approach to workplace inclusion. We believe inclusion is not a political issue. It’s a culture issue,” Hoesman said.

Jonathan M. Crotty, a partner at Parker Poe attorneys, said the new order is likely to be challenged by employers on Frist Amendment grounds, but that “if upheld, it could require significant rethinking of diversity and unconscious bias training programmes currently provided to employees by federal contractors”. 

The executive order follows a memo issued by the White House Office of Management and Budget in early September which said that federal agencies could no longer use taxpayer dollars to fund “un-American propaganda sessions” that provided instruction about critical race theory or white privilege, or that “taught that the United States is an inherently racist or evil” country.

About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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