On Sept. 22, President Donald Trump issued an executive order banning the federal government and its legions of contractors from implementing diversity training programs, including those already or previously in use, unless they are first reviewed by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. The purpose of the review is to ensure that they comply with the executive order which bans “offensive and anti-American race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating.” The administration, moreover, threatened to cancel or suspend contracts with companies and organizations that violate the order.nThe executive order elicited the expected outcry from racial justice activists and Trump’s political opponents who accused him of disregarding systematic racism in America.
Many of the critics claim, without evidence, an expression they seem fond of using, that the administration just doesn’t understand the purpose of diversity training. But the administration understands quite well that one of the purposes of the training is to make a lot of money for its producers. One diversity trainer, for example, taught that America was “built on the backs of people who were enslaved” and that “all white Americans are complicit in a system of white supremacy,” according to Christopher Rufo, director of the Discovery Institute’s Center on Wealth and Poverty in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. The trainer he cites argues that whites share an “inborn oppressive streak.” (Who knew?) Employees are told that “whiteness includes white privilege and white supremacy.” Managers are instructed to conduct listening sessions in which black employees speak about their experiences and “be seen in their pain” while white employees are to “sit in the discomfort” and “not fill the silence with (their) own thoughts and feelings”. Members of the victim group, furthermore, “are not obligated to like you, thank you , feel sorry for you or forgive you,” he adds. No forgiveness? How un-Christian! For “training” like this, Mr. Rufo reports, this trainer and his firm have been paid $5 million over 15 years, according to federal disclosures.
Another thing the administration probably understands, as do many of us current and former training and development directors, is that while some employees may benefit from well-designed and well-presented training which teaches the values of fairness and inclusiveness, not every employee needs it, especially when such values are clearly stated in employee handbooks and administrative and personnel policy manuals and actively and fairly enforced by managers. But often some of the content is of questionable value at best and at worst, similar to the nonsense described above.
This kind of training has been incorporated into industrial training programs by hundreds of companies eager to demonstrate their company’s virtue by showing support for the campaign against racial injustice. The time and money spent on such training would probably be better spent on actually recruiting, hiring, training and promoting minorities. And for the past few decades, universities and colleges have been offering an expanding variety of courses on racial and cultural sensitivity, many of them citing the work of Derrick Bell, a black academic who wrote about critical race theory. Some of these courses may be of value to students in need of easy credits toward graduation or to those who intend to make a career and a living out of racial injustice activism but most are somewhat light in substance and academic rigor and are relatively content-free.
Be that as it may, working adults and college students should at least be able to think for themselves and come to their own conclusions about their country’s history of systemic racism and whether or not they should feel guilty about it. But teaching primary and secondary school children that their country has an evil past and is still racist and that they are privileged and should feel guilty if they are white, or consider themselves victims if they are otherwise, is quite another matter. In California, a bill known as AB331would have mandated a semester-length course in ethnic studies as a requirement for graduation at all public schools in California K-12. The syllabus recommends teaching students about such concepts as “intersectionality, internationalized oppression and transformative resistance.” If you think that these “concepts” are a bit abstract for children, let me put them in simpler terms: They want to teach your kids that their country is systematically aligned against minorities and other victim groups. One draft of the curriculum reportedly promoted anti-Israel context. Another contained an assignment on Jewish and Irish Americans “gaining racial privilege.” I won’t presume to speak for my Jewish friends, but as a grandson of Irish-Catholic immigrants, I’d like to have a conversation with whoever came up with that idea. We could talk about some of my ancestors’ experiences with all that Irish privilege.
AB 331, to the embarrassment, I hope, of all Californians, actually passed in the State Senate 33-4 and the Assembly by 62-12, both supermajorities. Gov. Gavin Newsome, to his credit, vetoed it but the legislators may have the votes to override if they are shameless enough to try. Parents with school children should be outraged at such attempts to indoctrinate their children and usurp their role as parents and should voice their opinions in the strongest of terms.
During the first presidential debate, moderator Chris Wallace asked the president why he directed federal agencies to end racial sensitivity training that promotes white privilege or critical race theory. Mr. Trump answered, “I ended it because it’s racist. They were teaching people to hate our country.” Joe Biden replied, “He’s wrong. Nobody’s doing that.” Uh huh.