In a time of deep political division, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives have come into the spotlight. In this article, we will share a quick overview of the current worries and debunk the misinformation floating around about DEI training.
In late September, outgoing President Trump issued an executive order banning the federal government – and all subcontractors – from offering certain diversity training regarding race and gender. Transparently political, the EO is titled “Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping.” The president has called these teachings “divisive” and “malign ideology.” The White House’s budget director, Mr. Vought, went a step further in saying that the significant changes to diversity training were to take out any “un-American propaganda.” The specific programs being targeted include discussions on white privilege, critical race theory or anything that, in the government’s words “suggests that any institution or race is inherently evil.”
Actions were taken quickly. The Justice Department suspended all DEI training in October and all implicit bias training for federal prosecutors were postponed indefinitely. Universities who rely on federal funding fear being shut down if their training continues. The Labor department has even created a hotline for tips regarding non-compliance with the new Executive Order.
Considering the results of the 2020 presidential election, this EO may not last for long. Regardless, it has brought up misinformation that we feel responsible to clarify in order to advance the DEI field, regardless of who is in the White House.
Everyone holds implicit biases.
- There is nobody who is without bias. Unconscious bias training is meant to allow for self-reflection and foster self-awareness regarding everybody’s subconscious thoughts, beliefs, and stereotypes. Self reflection is key for growth. These training sessions are not about blaming and shaming, but learning and growing.
White privilege exists. It doesn’t make you evil.
- White privilege exists. If you are white, you probably do not fear for your life when a police car pulls you over. That is a privilege in a country where Black men are targeted. White privilege does not negate other aspects of your identity (being a woman, LGBTQ+, differently-abled, poor) that may marginalize you. Benefitting from white privilege is not absolute – and it does not make anyone evil. It should be acknowledged and dealt with, from the inside-out.
The U.S.’s history is ugly, racist, sexist. We all have to reconcile with this to move forward.
- The foundations of US American society have paved the way for a democratic superpower. The foundations of US American society were also built on Native genocide, enslavement of African peoples and systemic sexism. As a society, it is important to acknowledge the past. When we acknowledge it, we can come together, heal and move on. If we ignore it, divisions and assumptions will only further polarize the country.
DEI training is uncomfortable. That is okay.
- When we are learning anything new, we may feel uncomfortable or out of our element. This is not the goal of DEI training, rather a means to an end. In being uncomfortable, we grow. It is the growth that is the goal. That growth is key to making effective, inclusive, powerhouse workplaces that stand the test of time.
Nobody knows it all.
- As we talk about DEI training and the various ways our world is changing around us, remember that nobody knows it all. We are all learning together, from each other. If we enter these conversations and training sessions with this in mind, there is only room for community and growth, rather than fear-mongering terms like “inherently evil” or “anti-American.”
So, where do we go from here?
In a world where leaders try to demonize the field, ‘rules’ are changing every day, and we all inherently have biases – what is there to do? As a DEI facilitator, do you throw up your hands? As a team leader, do you walk away from the challenge to strive for inclusion? No. In fact, you do the opposite. You continue on; you fight for awareness and transformation both personally and in the workplace. While you do, keep in mind the five key points above and the importance of actively stopping the spread of such harmful misinformation in its tracks.
2, Kells McPhillips・November. “Why Implicit Bias Training Must Be the First Step of Any Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiative.” Well+Good, 29 Oct. 2020, www.wellandgood.com/implicit-bias-training/.
Fuchs, Hailey. “Trump Attack on Diversity Training Has a Quick and Chilling Effect.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 13 Oct. 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/10/13/us/politics/trump-diversity-training-race.html.
Staff, NPR. “Trump Expands Ban On Racial Sensitivity Training To Federal Contractors.” NPR, NPR, 23 Sept. 2020, www.npr.org/2020/09/22/915843471/trump-expands-ban-on-racial-sensitivity-training-to-federal-contractors.
Zelevansky, Nora. “The Big Business of Unconscious Bias.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 20 Nov. 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/11/20/style/diversity-consultants.html.