Trump effort to bar racial-sensitivity trainings in federal government leads to confusion for employees

“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.”

Democratic nominee Joe Biden alleged, however, that Trump had a much different motive for banning the trainings: “He’s a racist.”

Their comments came one day after the White House issued its second set of guidelines on the attempted bans. The guidelines outlined how the government would retaliate against those who did not follow the new restrictions.

They have raised numerous questions inside government agencies about how to proceed. It also triggered a backlash within the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, with some career employees complaining policy is being set based on what the president sees on conservative cable networks — and OMB officials are happily going along with it.

Russell Vought, OMB’s director, updated the administration’s guidance after the National Park Service sent agency officials a memo last week suspending hundreds of training programs while it tried to understand how to comply with the order, according to emails and documents reviewed by The Washington Post. It would later narrow the list of suspended courses, but some employees said they still included ones on sexual harassment, tribal consultation and how to respond to people with disabilities.

The White House orders have led to scrambling throughout the government.

Meanwhile, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the government’s second-largest agency and among the most decentralized, abruptly canceled a diversity training program at the VA hospital in West Palm Beach, Fla. This decision was made by the agency’s Washington headquarters after a conservative activist flagged the event on Twitter.

The chain of events stems from a Sept. 4 memo Vought issued, which said Trump had asked him to stop federal agencies from giving employee trainings on “white privilege” and critical race theory. Vought cast this approach as “divisive” and “un-American.”

The White House issued the memo after Fox News ran a number of segments criticizing “diversity and inclusion” efforts in the federal government.

Trump saw one of the cable news programs and asked aides, “What is this crap?” an administration official said, describing his reaction, and he directed OMB to cancel the seminars. Trump saw the matter as a winning campaign issue. Within days, a guest on Fox News who raised the issue had been called, Vought had been summoned to the Oval Office, and the memo from OMB had been drafted. It was released late on a Friday night.

Trump followed up with an executive order last week barring federal contractors from using workplace training that includes what he called “race or sex stereotyping or any form of race or sex scapegoating.” The president has also asked other aides what else can be done to make sure agencies are complying.

The White House directives attempt to create significant penalties for federal

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White House directs federal agencies to halt some race-related trainings

The directive targets training on “white privilege” or “critical race theory.”

The White House is directing federal departments and agencies to “cease and desist” funding for certain types of race and diversity training, according to a new memo sent out to federal agencies by the Office of Management and Budget on Friday.

In the memo, OMB Director Russell Vought tells the heads of federal agencies that certain types of racial bias training, reportedly being administered by executive agencies, are “un-American” and “divisive” and said President Donald Trump had directed the agencies to stop these trainings.

“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,” Vought wrote.

On Saturday morning, Trump retweeted nearly 20 references to this directive. Many of the tweets came from individuals who often tweet far-right leaning perspectives, as well as from several right-leaning publications.

One such retweet was a video of a Fox News’ Tucker Carlson highlighting the use of the race and diversity trainings within the federal government.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump addresses the crowd at a campaign event at the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport, Sept. 3, 2020, in Latrobe, Pa.

President Donald Trump addresses the crowd at a campaign event at the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport, Sept. 3, 2020, in Latrobe, Pa.

President Donald Trump addresses the crowd at a campaign event at the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport, Sept. 3, 2020, in Latrobe, Pa.

In the memo, Vought references press reports of trainings during which attendees have been told that “virtually all White people contribute to racism” or are “required to say that they “benefit from racism.”

The memo was first reported by Real Clear Politics and followed by the Washington Post.

It was not immediately clear what specific trainings the memo was directing to be halted.

ABC News reached out to the White House for additional information on the types of training the White House is targeting with its directive. The inquiry was referred to the Office of Management and Budget, which did not immediately respond.

The White House will be offering additional guidance on carrying out the President’s Directive, the OMB memo states. In the meantime, agencies are being directed to identify these trainings and are encouraged to begin identifying ways to cancel contracts for trainings that teach “white privilege” or “critical race theory.”

Diversity initiatives at federal agencies were implemented in part by a 2011 Executive Order by then President Barack Obama. Advocates say they can be helpful in spotting racial biases and improving inclusivity.

Race has come into increasing focus in the runup to the 2020 election, as protests over police shootings of people of color have led to nationwide protests.

Trump has been critical of these protestors and campaigned on the need for police and political leaders to crack down them.

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White House wants to cancel federal agencies’ race-related trainings

The memo, released on Friday, also tells all federal agencies to identify and if possible cancel contracts that involve teaching that America is an “inherently racist or evil country.”

“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,” the memo states.

Vought writes in the memo that “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.”

He then refers to press reports that say federal employees “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.’ ”

It could not immediately be learned what training sessions Vought was referring to in the memo. Recent Fox News segments have heavily criticized “diversity and inclusion” efforts in the federal government started under the Obama administration.

“It’s absolutely astonishing how critical race theory has pervaded every institution in the federal government,” Chris Rufo, research fellow at the right-wing Discovery Institute, told Fox News’s Tucker Carlson earlier this week.

Other experts say racial and diversity awareness trainings are essential steps in helping rectify the pervasive racial inequities in American society, including those perpetuated by the federal government. Several studies have found federal contracts are disproportionately awarded to white-owned businesses. In 2017, a study by the Minority Business Development Agency found a dwindling over two decades in contracts for minority-owned businesses, according to NPR.

Racial awareness trainings can help officials realize unconscious bias in the awarding of contracts from the federal government, the largest employer in the world, said M.E. Hart, an attorney who has given hundreds of diversity training sessions for businesses and the federal government for more than 20 years.

The racial sensitivity trainings can improve morale and cooperation in the workplace, and by increasing the diversity of perspectives, ultimately improve overall efficiency, Hart says.

“If we are going to live up to this nation’s promise — ‘we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal’ — we have to see each other as human beings, and we have to do whatever it takes, including taking whatever classes make that possible,” Hart said. “These classes have been very powerful in allowing people to do that, and we need them more than ever. There’s danger here.”

The OMB memo later says that “the President, and his Administration, are fully committed to the fair and equal treatment of all individuals in the United States.” It was first reported by RealClearPolitics.

The memo comes after Trump has put himself at the center of intense national debates about race, political tactics, the Civil War and the Confederate flag. Democrats have long taken aim at Trump’s comments about race, including his false assertion that former president Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

And this year, as numerous

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