Audiences sat home aghast at the September presidential debate between incumbent President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Not just because the president tried to steamroll his opponent and showed no respect for time limits or decorum or even because the president stood on a stage and refused to reject white nationalists before millions of Americans. Trump offended and shocked countless Americans by defending his move to end racial sensitivity training in companies doing business with the federal government.
Racial sensitivity training, he declared, is “racist.”
“I ended it because a lot of people were complaining that they were asked to do things that were absolutely insane—that it was a radical revolution that was taking place in our military, in our schools, all over the place,” Trump said. “And you know it. And so does everybody.”
Trump, in fact, declared racism is officially over in America and issued a Sept. 22 executive order demanding federal employees and contractors accept this narrow-minded opinion or be fired. The executive order itself imposes a circumscribed, history-blind point of view.
“From the battlefield of Gettysburg to the bus boycott in Montgomery and the Selma-to-Montgomery marches, heroic Americans have valiantly risked their lives to ensure that their children would grow up in a Nation living out its creed,” the EO reads. “… Thanks to the courage and sacrifice of our forebears, America has made significant progress toward realization of our national creed, particularly in the 57 years since Dr. King shared his dream with the country.”
Because of Lincoln and the Civil Rights Era, according to Trump, the nation has done about all it can do on the racism front and shouldn’t have to do any more. The executive order lauds the work of Reconstruction but ignores the barbaric United States v. Cruikshank Supreme Court decision in 1876 that ripped 14th Amendment protections from the actions of individuals. That court decision allowed armed white terrorist groups and racist paramilitaries to overrun the U.S., burning, hanging, raping and murdering Black people who dared to use their rights, affirmed by the U.S. Constitution. The Ku Klux Klan and its terrorist activities were endorsed by the highest court in the land for more than a century.
The executive order ignores all of that but goes further by crazily accusing anybody of daring to point out the nation’s obvious racism as being racist.
“Today … many people are pushing a different vision of America … This ideology is rooted in the pernicious and false belief that America is an irredeemably racist and sexist country; that some people, simply on account of their race or sex, are oppressors; and that racial and sexual identities are more important than our common status as human beings and Americans,” the executive order claims.
That ideology apparently extends to racial sensitivity and diversity training, which Trump wants stopped. Diversity and sensitivity training, according to the president, is built on “the lie that the country … is fundamentally racist,” and the order demands no one can be taught that they are “inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously” by virtue of his or her race or sex. This means your white boss can’t even be told ignoring resumes with ethnic names on them is wrong.
The executive order also demands no individual can “receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex.” And that, of course, means dumping any diversity training to fix a company’s racist or anti-diverse policies.
This new executive order applies to every branch of the U.S. armed forces and to all contractors doing business with the federal government. It also applies to organizations or companies that receive federal grants. It is already impacting companies that provide diversity training to U.S. agencies.
Paul Meshanko is founder and president at Legacy Business Cultures, a company that offers diversity training services to the Department of Justice and the Department of Defense.
“I don’t know if (Trump) doesn’t understand it or he does and he’s trying to attract certain kinds of voters. Either way, it’s caused a lot of apprehension,” Meshanko told Lighthouse. “We had a big proposal with one of the (Department of Defense) organizations. We had a $100,000 proposal out there and we were told we had made it down to the final two candidates. Well, now it’s kind of gone silent in the last few days. We’re told that they’re still looking at (our bid proposal) but they’re more apprehensive and careful now after to the EO announcement.”
Legacy Business Cultures conducts the kind of training that counters decades of bias and prejudice in an office environment. It pushes employees to widen their circle of friends beyond a handful of like-minded and similar-looking individuals. It also trains employees how to slow down conversation and carefully consider statements to fellow co-workers. Additionally, it coaches management on how to avoid inherently racist policies and practices.
Have you ever suspected a potential employer overlooked your résumé because of your ethnic name at the top of it? Wonder no longer; they have. In fact, they do it all the time. So much so, that Legacy Business Cultures encourages management to dump trigger bias in the hiring process by letting a third-party entity strip cultural and racial identifiers, like names and school background from resumes. After some strategic omissions, the stack of resumes the boss finally sees feature nothing to indicate race or background, just skill.
Helpful practices like these are at an end under this president, however.
Meshanko says he hopes the executive order will be a non-issue after the election, regardless of who wins.
“I think the issue will wind itself down after the election because this was a dog-whistle strategy to get certain (racist) groups riled up,” Meshanko said. “If Biden wins, the whole issue goes away completely, no questions asked. But even if Trump wins, it may get pushed aside as other issues like the Supreme Court nominations become more important.”