Trump purportedly rejects the view that systemic racism in America is a problem and has now banned any federal agency trainings related the concepts of “white privilege” or “critical race theory”. A closer read of the Office of Management and Budget memo suggests that the ban is specifically focused on antiracism related trainings – arguably just what America needs most.
While most companies embraced some level of diversity training in the years after the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act, the results have arguably been dismal at best. Where have decades of broad diversity training brought us?
- There are only four Black CEOs in the Fortune 500
- Today’s most diverse Congress ever includes only 57 Black members of the 535 voting members
- The Black-White wage gap is approximately what it was in 1950
- Black households have about 10% the median net worth of white households
- The percent of Black men attending medical school has remained about the same since 1978
- 85% of top executive positions are held by whites (per a 2020 Mercer study)
- Only 23% of U.S. organizations have high potential programs for people of color
- U.S. advertising and promotion managers were less than 1% Black (per a 2019 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics survey)
- 187 of the S&P 500 companies do not have a single Black Board member (per a 2019 Black Enterprise study)
- High tech companies continue to report dismal diversity statistics
Most companies consistently lean on the refrain “we need to do more” which leads one to wonder…With all the focus on diversity over the past several decades – why haven’t they done more? As issues of racism, discrimination and diversity are complex ones, there’s not a single obvious reason, but here are four key reasons why American workplaces desperately need training and programs focused specifically on antiracism, not just diversity.
Antiracism training provides the specificity that too often diversity training does not
In much the same way that “All Lives Matter” fails to capture and address the needs of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, this moment requires specific focus on antiracism if workplaces are to achieve real equity. The truth is that racism is the root cause issue that’s gone ignored, swept aside, minimized, misunderstood, avoided, even rejected for far too long. Indeed, it’s a cancer that has grown and spread throughout many organizations in part because workplaces (and organizational leaders) have been unwilling to sit down and take in the bad news, then start working on a treatment. Antiracism initiatives require doing just that – actively acknowledging, then working against racism. While that shouldn’t seem radical in 2020, Trump’s recent announcement is just one example of the resistance.
Antiracism training prioritizes honest education
Antiracism training acknowledges that there really is no moving forward without looking back. The truth is that we are not all on a level playing field in terms of not just our own personal experiences but also knowledge of racial discrimination so it’s critically important to provide the sometimes hard to hear history of race in this country. Too often diversity efforts shy away from deep discussions of race period much less the history of racism in this country (and beyond), but antiracism places education front and center. Kendi’s National Book Award winning Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America is precisely the type of history that workplaces desperately need. Unfortunately, this sober review of America’s deeply racist history seems to be precisely the type of information that Trump’s recent ban is determined to censor. Knowledge is power, and the first collective step forward for our workplaces begins with learning our history.