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Trump purges politics from diversity training

Posted on September 13, 2020

Columns

President Donald Trump’s critics are branding him a bigot again. This time, they’re crying wolf. 

At Trump’s behest, the Office of Management and Budget told federal agencies to freeze spending on employee training programs that instruct workers on critical race theory, white privilege and systemic racism. 

“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,” OMB Director Russell Vought wrote in a Sept. 4 memo. 

Pundits reflexively bristled, bleated and bellyached. Yet millions of American workers who’ve endured HR-mandated struggle sessions understand all too well that resenting required diversity training doesn’t indicate a negative attitude toward diversity itself.

Critical race theory holds that the United States is a fundamentally racist society — not an exceptional nation that’s failed to live up to its founding principles. 

“Racism exists everywhere in American life — from within our own thoughts to our personal relationships to our places of work to our educational and judicial systems,” consultant and trainer Desiree Adaway of The Adaway Group writes on her website. “CRT says that racism isn’t just the actions of individuals but that it’s embedded in our institutions, systems and culture. It is our way of life.”

If you thought the Trump budget director’s “un-American propaganda” line was harsh, how would you describe the claim that racism is literally the American way of life? Such self-flagellation leaves precious little room for improvement, but reform isn’t the point.

Proponents usually flunk the Ben Shapiro test. The conservative commentator asks critical race theorists to identify specific laws and policies that are racist so he can help dismantle them. Cue the stammers, silence and deer-in-the-headlights stares.

“Systemic racism” is a maddeningly vague charge when the people making it can’t pinpoint racist systems. We’re supposed to believe prejudice is a force too wispy and ethereal to isolate but so potent that it permeates every facet of our lives. 

A key facet of critical race theory, white privilege was popularized in Peggy McIntosh’s 1989 essay “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Widely cited in the social sciences, “Knapsack” is a first-person soliloquy, not a peer-reviewed research paper with scholarly bona fides. 

To be sure, many white Americans benefit from unearned societal privileges, but it’s pure conjecture that race, rather than class, is the chief cause. The concept is also Western-centric. Apply a global perspective and it becomes majority privilege. 

White people in China, for example, don’t enjoy a pronounced advantage over people who are ethnically Chinese. To the extent that privileges can be quantified, they appear to result from human group dynamics, not racist culture. 

In her overwrought Trump takedown, American Association of University Professors President Irene Mulvey called critical race theory a “vibrant and rigorous discipline.” She and other academics beclown themselves when they cloak a political ideology in the garb of scholarship. 

Critical theory rejects the belief that “concepts like neutrality, objectivity, colorblindness and meritocracy can be fully actualized,” according to Adaway’s website. 

Richard Posner, the retired 7th Circuit Court of Appeals judge and law professor who’s been cited more than any other modern legal scholar, dismissed the theory in a 1997 review, noting that “it turns its back on the Western tradition of rational inquiry, forswearing analysis for narrative.” 

Studies show diversity training is often ineffective, and even programs that seem to succeed in changing participants’ attitudes toward women and minorities may fail to produce measurable changes in behavior. 

Still, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and consultants and corporate lawyers have convinced most major American companies that such seminars are an integral part of the workplace. 

Trump hasn’t banned every exercise that falls under the diversity training umbrella, but he’s drawn a line in the sand: The federal government won’t pay for workers to be indoctrinated in the sociopolitical belief that America is irredeemably racist. 

Employees can still hold that belief and serve in the federal workforce. The only change is that taxpayers no longer have to foot the bill.

Corey Friedman is editor of The Wilson Times and executive editor of Restoration NewsMedia. In this weekly column for Creators Syndicate, he explores solutions to political conflicts from an independent perspective. Follow him on Twitter @coreywrites. To read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.

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