Brendan Smearlowski / AFP via Getty Images
Three civil rights groups filed a federal class action lawsuit on Thursday, challenging the Trump administration’s recent crackdown on diversity training.
The NAACP Legal Defense Education Fund, the National Urban League, and the National Urban League call President Trump’s September 22 executive order a “ruthless punishment” censorship that violates freedom of speech, equal protection, and guarantees of due process. I’m out.
A few weeks ago, I banned efforts to teach civil servants divisive and harmful sex and race-based ideologies. Today I have extended the ban to business people and businesses …
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 22, 2020
Trump’s executive order bans certain diversity training that the administration calls equivalent to “divided and anti-American publicity.”
Five weeks after the order was signed, it has a widespread chilling effect, as critics vie for ways for federal agencies, the military, government contractors, and grant recipients to comply. Say it.
This order is intended for diversity training based on what the administration calls “there is a risk of infecting our core institutions” and “malicious ideology.”
Such an ideology is “rooted in the harmful and false belief that America is a racist and sexist country,” the order states.
This order applies widely to recipients of federal grants, including federal agencies, the military, government contractors, universities and nonprofits.
The Department of State, the Department of Justice, and the Veterans Affairs Department are one of the departments that have suspended all diversity and inclusion training programs while reviewing the content. Many companies and universities do the same.
The Executive Order also encourages the Ministry of Labor to question or complain about diversity training that “employees and other stakeholders” have determined may be offensive or illegal regarding the possibility of investigation. We are instructing you to set up a hotline. The hotline received more than 140 responses in the five weeks since it was set up.
The plaintiffs who filed the proceedings this week said the hotline was accompanied by “alert … a reaction to McCarthyism.”
The White House Memorandum of Understanding warns that contractors found in breach may suspend or cancel their contracts. Violations by federal employees “will have consequences that may include adverse behavior,” the memo said.
Mr. Trump was asked to explain the reason behind the order at the presidential debate on September 29, “They were teaching people that our country is a terrifying place. It’s racism. It’s a typical place, and they taught people to hate our country, and I’m not going to allow it to happen. “
“A really scary place”
“My first immediate thought goes here,” says Michelle Kim, when he first heard about Trump’s executive order titled “The Fight against Race and Sexual Stereotypes.”
Kim is a co-founder and CEO of Oakland, California-based Awaken, providing companies with workshops on diversity, equity and inclusiveness.
Her anxiety was justified. Shortly after the order was placed, she asked a customer of the company involved to review her material to make sure it did not contain any prohibited concepts.
The terms that the Trump administration has identified as potentially problematic are “white privileges,” “racism,” “unconscious prejudice,” “crossover,” “racial humility,” and “. “Critical Racism” is included.
Kim told the client that he could theoretically avoid using the term “white privilege” in the story, but he would “agree with the spirit of the question in itself.” It was.
She offered to revoke the speech agreement, but in the end she was able to alleviate the client’s concerns. Her talk about power and privilege in the workplace went on.
Still, Kim says the damage has occurred. “We are now struggling to understand the legal implications of it, rather than focusing on actually fighting racism and becoming anti-racist. Presidential orders are many. I think I was successful in terms of it. I will create that distraction. “
Kim believes that the Trump administration’s orders are based on a serious misunderstanding of diversity training. It’s a false belief that blaming and blaming whites is everything. (The word “scapegoat” appears seven times by executive order.)
Kim says that misunderstanding is not only wrong, but also dangerous. “For some reason, we’ve reached a place where we believe the fight against racism is patriotic,” she says. “That’s where we exist as a society, and it’s a really scary place.”
“It’s a dog whistle”
Joelle Emerson, co-founder and CEO of DiverCity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Company Paradigm, admits that when he first reads the executive order, it is “very naive.”
“I didn’t expect any of our clients to be hooked on this,” says Emerson. “I said,’This is obviously propaganda. It’s fascist propaganda. It’s a dog whistle to Trump’s base, and organizations that care about diversity, fairness, and inclusiveness, like us. You will get angry with this order. ”And I was wrong.”
As a result of the order, Emerson lost his client. The client is a government contractor who has decided to put all diversity training on hold.
According to Emerson, the president’s crackdown on diversity training is part of a broader cultural war and a battle that plays people’s fears about what diversity stands for. The fear is, “Diversity isn’t for you. Diversity training makes you feel guilty about who you are and deprives you of your rights,” she says.
“Of course, it’s not accurate, but it’s a fear that many whites have about their commitment to diversity. It seems that they speak directly to that fear and are working hard to take advantage of it. And sow discord. “
At Littler Mendelson, an employment law firm, Chris Gokturk has responded to a large number of calls from companies with government contracts.
“It was a rough few weeks!” Says Göktürk. “I don’t have enough time for the day.”
Göktürk supports companies with affirmative action and diversity programs, and her clients have asked many questions since the order was placed.
“The most common thing is, should we stop all diversity training? Should we just stop?” She says. “And first I said,” No. You scrutinized your workout, you always review it and everything else. “” “
“And the hotline went up.”
Its e-mail and telephone hotline encourages people to secretly submit information about training programs, including “banned race and gender stereotypes and scapegoats.”
“This asks Americans to monitor other Americans, and this-yes, it’s chilly. It’s absolutely chilly,” Stanford University society said. Says professor Sherry Correll.
She studies gender and organizational diversity and conducts unconscious bias training.
Correll fears that the chilling effect could extend beyond what is specified by the executive order and threaten freedom of speech in academia. That is a concern she has heard from fellow teachers across the country.
“There are a lot of worries that this is just one step, and that this could lead to restrictions on what we teach in the classroom,” says Correl. “As we move forward, the university may really need to retreat.”
The Executive Order specifies that if the “division concept” is made “in an objective way and without approval”, it can be discussed in an academic setting.
Correll said the president’s actions were “surprisingly off-base” and untimely. “This is an executive order issued at a time when interest in diversity training has never been higher. At polls, the majority of Americans consider racism in our country to be a serious problem. So people are paying attention, and at this point there is an executive order. I don’t think it’s a coincidence. “
Of course, if Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden takes office in January, he can revoke the order with a pen stroke.
The Biden campaign did not say whether to revoke the order, but told NPR: “Vice President Biden strongly opposes all types of discrimination, and his administration addresses systematic racism and other forms of discrimination across all laws, policies and institutions.”