By Stephany Rose Spaulding, Ph.D and Dena Samuels, Ph.D
Donald J. Trump is doing everything in his power (and beyond what his power technically allows) to stoke the flames of a race war in the U.S., when his administration should be working to squelch those flames. At a time when protests demanding racial justice have lasted more than 100 days in cities across America with no signs of letting up, buttressed by a global pandemic that has unearthed on prime time television the stark racial disparities in health care, job, education, and housing security, he responds by trying to outlaw anti-bias training and education, potentially violating First Amendment rights of curriculum developers. Instead of admitting that racism is a sickness, he chose to call the programs that are designed to eradicate racism, “a sickness that cannot be allowed to continue.” After all, allowing truth-telling to continue would expose the harsh racial realities and white supremacy upon which this country was founded.
The evidence is glaring that the United States needs to invest more time, money and resources in authentic, truthful and healing dialogues about race, racism and white supremacist ideology.
Beginning long before the most recent protests against police violence, long before Starbucks shut down 8,000 stores for implicit bias training, and even before former Attorney General Eric Holder declared us a “‘nation of cowards’ on race relations”, a commitment to diversity and inclusion has been shown to socially and economically benefit society by improving employee engagement, company loyalty, and the bottom line.
This is especially important for our future workforce. From high schools to universities and coast to coast, students are demanding more diverse and inclusive curricula alongside more anti-racism policies and practices on their campuses. They want to be educated and are calling for their institutions to be transformed. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Millennials will constitute 75 percent of our workforce by the year 2025. Many Millennials and Gen Z students and workers are biracial and LGBTQ, and they are more interested in companies that value diversity, equity and inclusion. DEI training demonstrates a clear commitment to an inclusive culture.
In our experience providing anti-bias training for universities, and both publicly and privately-funded organizations, we have seen first-hand the difference these conversations make. People of all races, genders, sexual orientations have shared how challenging it can be to confront the systems of inequality that exist in society, but that the process of: understanding and wrestling with our shared history, self-reflection, truth-telling, healing, and discovering new ways of being and interacting, has been transformative. Ultimately, diversity, equity and inclusion helps to eliminate “economic inefficiencies” and brings billions of dollars in added value to our overall economy, something we desperately need in this moment.
Almost every major city across the country is on the precipice of experiencing an all out race war, as para-militias have begun to clash with peaceful protestors, and as the police are militarized with war-grade weapons. But Trump refuses to see past his own agenda and is willing to sacrifice the health and lives of his constituency for his own personal gain.
As racial tensions increase, President Trump is using this moment to further destabilize our nation by moving to pull federal funding and programs that support diversity, equity and inclusion training. Additionally, he is calling for the Department of Education to pull federal funding from school districts that utilize the Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times’ 1619 Project as curriculum for students. As professors who specialize in women’s and ethnic studies at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs and founding board members of the national Truth and Conciliation Commission, we recognize that such moves are some of the most harmful actions that can be taken and will weaponize the Office of the President as a smoking gun against racial justice.
Perhaps the President does not want the U.S. economy and workers to recover. Perhaps he does not want officer-involved shootings of Black and Brown Americans to decrease. Perhaps he does not want America to ever truly become great. His actions indicate that he is completely fine with unraveling any shred of progress that we have made towards racial justice and building an equitable and inclusive society.
We can not be silent in the face of his actions! NOW is the precise moment that will determine if we are to ever become the society that purports to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. Now is the time to tell the truth about who we have been and do the conciliatory work to manifest who we desire to become.
Sign the pledge at: https://truthandconciliation.org/