On September 4, 2020, the White House Office of Management and Budget sent out a memorandum which read as follows:
“It has come to the President’s attention that Executive Branch agencies have spent millions of taxpayer dollars to date “training” government workers to believe divisive, anti-American propaganda.
“For example, according to press reports, employees across the Executive Branch have been required to attend trainings where they are told that “virtually all White people contribute to racism” or where they are required to say that they “benefit from racism.” According to press
reports, in some cases these training [sic] have further claimed that there is racism embedded in the belief that America is the land of opportunity or the belief that the most qualified person should receive a job.
“These types of “trainings” not only run counter to the fundamental beliefs for which our Nation has stood since its inception, but they also engender division and resentment within the Federal workforce. We can be proud that as an employer, the Federal government has
employees of all races, ethnicities, and religions. We can be proud that Americans from all over the country seek to join our workforce and dedicate themselves to public service. We can be proud of our continued efforts to welcome all individuals who seek to serve their fellow
Americans as Federal employees. However, we cannot accept our employees receiving training that seeks to undercut our core values as Americans and drive division within our workforce.”
The memo sparked a deluge of criticism. Headlines read “White House memo calls for ban on federal agency training that suggests U.S. is racist” and “Trump Moves to Cancel Contracts for Government Sensitivity Training.” The memo targeted “any training on “critical race theory” [or] “white privilege.”
Unfortunately, the memo is so broad that it may well stop any training within the Executive Branch that deals with racism. One can certainly criticize training that states broadly that “virtually all White people contribute to racism” but not to training that recognizes that there still exists racism in government and that Caucasians have historically been responsible for this. For example, Woodrow Wilson authorized the resegregation of federal departments, and federal employees should not be allowed to forget that. President Roosevelt (“FDR”) didn’t invite Jesse Owens to the White House after his 1936 Olympic victories. So the criticism of the Trump administration to training that teaches that the Nation’s “fundamental beliefs” have not always been honored is legitimate. The training of federal employees should be truthful. Yes, “[w]e can be proud of our continued efforts to welcome all individuals who seek to serve their fellow Americans as Federal employees,” but we can be proud as well to train Federal employees that this has not always been the case. Eliminating critical race theory means that nothing at all may be told about the bad as well as the good.
The memorandum looks like the administration playing politics to the Trump base. Trump will undoubtedly say that he ordered the saving of money and the prevention of training based on “Black Lives Matter.” This will play well to white voters who believe that the federal government is too focused on minority rights. But I doubt that it will play well to minorities, and that’s why I wonder why Trump is pursuing this particular agenda, particularly at a time less than two months before a critical election. Unlike Trump’s disavowal of his anti-veteran remarks, it will be difficult for him to disavow this memorandum. Not unless he is planning on firing the director of the Office of Management and Budget who signed the memo.