Leadership

ASAE Condemns White House Orders on Federal Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Training

By / Oct 8, 2020 (lucky-photographer/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

In a letter to the White House this week, ASAE urged the administration to rescind its recent directives to end DEI training sessions for government workers.

ASAE this week urged the White House to rescind recent directives to federal agencies to end diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training sessions for government workers.

Under orders from the White House, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Office of Personnel Management (OPM) have instructed federal agencies to identify all required and voluntary DEI training sessions offered within the federal government that involve terms like “critical race theory,” “white privilege,” and “systemic racism,” and cancel all contracts where the law allows. This includes any DEI sessions paid for with taxpayer dollars, including training offered by federal contractors.

ASAE and other proponents of workplace DEI training have been critical of the White House’s actions and motives.

“More than 62,000 associations across the country play an important role in training America’s workforce, and are among the vanguard seeking to confront pervasive inequalities in hiring practices, leadership advancement, compensation and organizational culture,” ASAE President and CEO Susan Robertson, CAE, said in ASAE’s Oct. 7 letter [PDF]. “The association community understands that our workplaces mirror what is happening throughout our society. At a time when racial injustice and inequality embroil our nation, it is unconscionable that this administration orders federal agencies to disregard the world around them.”

In a Sept. 22 executive order, President Trump defined DEI training as “divisive” and “un-American,” and recent memos from OMB [PDF] and OPM [PDF] have outlined how the government intends to retaliate against those who do not follow the directives. The White House reportedly began issuing the agency guidance after Fox News ran a number of segments criticizing diversity and inclusion efforts in the federal government.

Trump’s executive order and agency memos purport to allow agency officials to discipline employees who approve certain DEI training sessions and encourage federal workers to report such training to agency inspector general offices. The orders directly impact more than 2 million federal employees, over 37 percent of whom identify as a racial or ethnic minority, according to 2019 OPM data, as well as millions more employed by government contractors.

The White House directives became a flash point in the presidential debate last week, as Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden accused Trump of being a 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 during the debate. “And you know it. And so does everybody.”

In its letter this week, ASAE said the directives are far-reaching and extend well beyond the federal workforce. “When the federal government gives license to ignoring the very real barriers that millions of employees feel in their workplaces, it sends a clear signal that you are not interested in the views or experiences of diverse staff members, or in confronting racial and gender disparities that permeate every industry and profession in America,” Robertson said.

Chris Vest, CAE

Chris Vest, CAE is director of public policy at ASAE. More »

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