The White House’s Office of Management and Budget notified agency heads Sept. 4 that federal workplaces will no longer be allowed to conduct “divisive, anti-American propaganda” training that focuses on race theory and white privilege.
“It has come to the president’s attention that executive branch agencies have spent millions of taxpayer dollars to date ‘training’ government workers to believe divisive, anti-American propaganda,” OMB director Russell Vought wrote in a memo to agency leaders.
“For example, 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 training 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.”
Contracts for diversity training at federal agencies go back decades, though an initiative started through an executive order signed by President Barack Obama in 2011 moved to standardize and improve diversity efforts across the executive branch.
The Governmentwide Inclusive Diversity Strategic Plan issued in 2016 as a result of that order focused on a New Inclusion Quotient, which called on agencies to “provide training and education on cultural competency, implicit bias awareness and inclusion learning for all employees.”
Many such training programs examine topics like racial and ethnic privilege, microaggressions and how to recognize racist behavior.
“Diversity and inclusion programs in the federal government help us understand one another’s perspectives and build a workplace where every employee is treated with dignity, fairness and respect, regardless of their background,” American Federation of Government Employees National President Everett Kelley said in a statement.
“As racial injustice continues to rock this nation, we ought to be building more bridges of understanding. But all this president seems to know how to do is build walls of division.”
The decision to remove these training programs comes at the same time some employees are reporting ongoing discrimination and exclusion within their own agencies that has yet to be addressed.
Though the memo cites unnamed press reports as the driving force behind the policy change, the Washington Post noted that many of the rationales listed in the OMB memo have been discussed on Fox News segments.
In a recent segment, Tucker Carlson stated that “diversity trainers systematically attack the unifying ideals of this country,” and blamed the protests and violence taking place in cities like Portland, Oregon, on such training initiatives.
“That the federal government is now making major policy changes based on unconfirmed press reports President Trump saw on Fox News, without even a pretense of actual research into the issue, demonstrates how far this administration has strayed from anything that remotely resembles the principles of good government,” said Kelley.
The federal government has one of the most diverse workforces in the country, with percentages of African American and Asian employees that are higher than the estimated percentages of such racial makeups in the U.S. population. Over 37 percent of the federal workforce identifies as a racial or ethnic minority, according to December 2019 Office of Personnel Management Data.
But such data also reveals that racial and ethnic minorities make up smaller percentages of the higher-level positions in government, indicating that such diversity does not regularly make its way up to leadership positions.
The latest OMB memo instructs federal agencies to identify all contracts for diversity training that covers “‘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.”
Agencies are also expected to identify all available avenues to divert federal funds away from such contracts while OMB works on more comprehensive guidance.
Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.