White House Ends ‘Critical Race Theory’ Training for Federal Agencies

Lisa Nagele-Piazza, J.D., SHRM-SCP By Lisa Nagele-Piazza, J.D., SHRM-SCP September 9, 2020
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Federal agencies can no longer include "critical race theory" and discussions of "white privilege" in their workplace race-sensitivity training, according to a Sept. 4 White House announcement.

White House Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought said federal agencies "have spent millions of taxpayer dollars" on trainings that "engender division and resentment within the federal workforce."

Critical race theory teaches that racism is "deeply imbedded in legal institutions" and that the dominant culture has a tendency "to normalize white individuals' experiences and ignore the experiences of nonwhites," according to Purdue University.

"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," Vought wrote in a memo to agency leaders.

Advocates for such training say uncomfortable conversations about systemic racism are necessary. "Failure to acknowledge the impact of slavery and recognize how race, privilege and power work simultaneously to impact access and opportunity will cause racial equity to elude us," wrote Janice Gassam Asare, founder of diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) consultancy BWG Business Solutions, in a Forbes opinion piece.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) believes that every organization should provide diversity training, said Emily M. Dickens, SHRM's corporate secretary, chief of staff and head of government affairs. "The provider, scope and content of that training is within the purview of the employer. The ultimate goal should be to create inclusive, safe and equitable workplaces where all voices are heard.

"SHRM stands ready to serve as a resource to provide content and access to the hundreds of SHRM members who are experts in diversity, equity and inclusion and can provide myriad options for the federal government to consider as they implement these changes," Dickens said.

We've rounded up resources and articles from SHRM Online and other trusted outlets on this news.

Further Instructions Expected

Vought noted in his memo that the White House Office of Management and Budget will issue more details to federal agencies about how to implement the directive. Meanwhile, he said, all agency leaders should identify contracts and spending related to training on critical race theory, "white privilege," and "any other training or propaganda effort that teaches or suggests" the following:

  • The U.S. is "an inherently racist or evil country."
  • Any race or ethnicity is "inherently racist or evil."

Agencies are expected to cancel such contracts, Vought said. He added that "the president and his administration are fully committed to the fair and equal treatment of all individuals in the United States" and that President Donald Trump "intends to continue to support all Americans, regardless of race, religion or creed."

(The White House)

Advocates Say DE&I Training Is Essential

Some experts say that racial and diversity awareness training is critical to eliminate pervasive racial inequities. Such trainings can help government leaders recognize when unconscious bias influences how contracts are awarded and can improve workplace morale and cooperation, said M.E. Hart, an attorney and chief executive officer of Hart Learning Group, which offers DE&I training. "If we are going to live up to this nation's promise—'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal'—we have to see each other as human beings, and we have to do whatever it takes, including taking whatever classes make that possible," Hart said.

(The Washington Post)

Racial Inequality in the Workplace

SHRM's recent report, The Journey to Equity and Inclusion, found a need for more awareness in the workplace about racial inequality. Significantly, almost half of Black HR professionals surveyed (47 percent) said they do not feel safe voicing their opinions about racial justice issues in the workplace, while only a little more than one-quarter of white HR professionals (28 percent) say the same. Black and white workers generally agreed, however, that discussions about race can be uncomfortable. "But by thoughtfully cultivating these discussions and implementing what is learned, HR and other business leaders can guide our workplaces into a new era of honesty, respect, understanding and inclusion," said SHRM President and Chief Executive Officer Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, in the report's foreword.

(SHRM Online)

Creating a Safe Space at Work for Discussing Social Justice Topics

Social justice and racial equality are more than just hot topics on social media. Employees are talking about these issues in the workplace, and employers can bolster their DE&I efforts by providing a safe space for workers to have respectful and honest conversations. DE&I experts say organization must build a culture of trust among senior leaders, managers and employees.

(SHRM Online)

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