President Trump just made a major announcement that will surely have a huge impact on the diversity, … [+]
President Trump just made a major announcement that will surely have a huge impact on the diversity, equity and inclusion industry. Trump is now prohibiting federal agencies from conducting cultural sensitivity trainings because, according to the report, they are “divisive, anti-American propaganda.” Diversity trainings that focus on educating participants about white privilege, critical race theory and the racist origins of the United States apparently create “division and resentment” amongst federal employees. What is deeply problematic about this new ban is that the U.S. has a habit of avoiding the country’s dark and racist past. Evading the issue will not make it go away. It will grow more insidious and resilient as each year passes. In June of 2020, America was finally willing to look in the mirror, acknowledge the past and start the long process to make amends in order to move to a point of racial reconciliation and healing. The momentum was building and setting the stage for progress to be made. But with the Trump administration’s recent announcement, the racial equity that the country has been striving for will be stalled. Below are some of the reasons why this announcement was a huge mistake:
1. Comfortable conversations will not produce change. Race is the pink elephant in the room—everyone sees it but pretends they don’t. For so long, conversations about race were not taking place because it made people feel uncomfortable. But an interesting point to note is that change doesn’t occur in comfortability. When a person is finally moved to change, there is a catalyst that sparks that change. More often than not, it’s a feeling of un-comfortability. You may reach a moment when you realize that your current way of thinking, understanding and seeing the world requires a shift. By avoiding conversations about things that make us uncomfortable (white privilege, white supremacy, and anti-blackness) we will stay stagnant and little progress and growth will be made. The only way to get more comfortable with uncomfortable conversations is through practice. Stopping the conversation completely is highly detrimental to anti-racism efforts.
2. An understanding of history is necessary. There is an often-quoted phrase that says those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. There are some people who feel like slavery was a small stain on the fabric of this country and because it happened so long ago, it does not continuously need to be discussed, examined, and scrutinized. The comparison has been made between Germany’s response to the Holocaust and the United States’ response to slavery. Following the Holocaust, Germany took active steps to reckon with its Nazi past. In Germany, Nazi symbols and language is illegal and is considered a form of propaganda. Despite the fact that slavery was one of the greatest human atrocities that ever occurred, the United States still contains many relics of a not-so-ancient past. Confederate flags and monuments, which represent a group who so desperately wanted to keep Black people enslaved, can still be found in different cities across the country. It is impossible to understand systemic racism without having a thorough understanding of history and how a series of past events has created challenges for different groups. Failure to acknowledge the impact of slavery and recognize how race, privilege and power work simultaneously to impact access and opportunity will cause racial equity to elude us.
3. The goal is equity—not equality. The memorandum states that the Trump administration is “fully committed to the fair and equal treatment of all individuals in the United States.” It’s important to note that the goal is not equality but rather equity. Equality is treating everyone the same. The reason equality is not the goal is because it does not take into consideration the different barriers and challenges that have been experienced. Equity, on the other hand, is taking one’s unique needs and challenges into consideration and providing support based on these unique needs. Equity is providing employees with reasonable accommodations to ensure that they are able to adequately and successfully do their job. Equity is putting programs in place to ensure that people of color have equal access and opportunity. Equity is removing systemic barriers that have resulted in disparate treatment. There is an implication that everyone should be treated the exact same way, which is not the objective. Because there has been a long history of unequal treatment, there has to be efforts made to rectify this. Equality does not work to actively address or correct systems that have allowed unfair treatment. Because these impacts are still being felt today, having an equity focus is needed for progress to continue.