Companies across the country have been speaking out against racism, but less than 2% of top executives at 50 largest companies are Black.
In one of his first executive orders after being sworn in as the 46th president, Joe Biden reversed his predecessor’s diversity training ban that restricted the federal government and its contractors from curriculum that explored race and gender bias.
Donald Trump’s executive order issued in late September had an immediate chilling effect on reinvigorated efforts to reverse patterns of discrimination and exclusion in the workplace after the death of George Floyd, a Black man, under the knee of white officer in Minneapolis in May.
Democrats had called on the federal government to back off the order. Bob Menendez, D-N.J.; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; and 18 other senators said it stifled “much-needed efforts in our states to reduce race and sex-based discrimination.”
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The order affected government agencies, Fortune 500 companies, educational institutions, nonprofits and any others that have federal contracts or planned to apply for them. Its stated objective was “to combat offensive and anti-American race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating.”
The Labor Department previously told USA TODAY the elimination of “race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating in employment” was “a key civil rights priority of the Trump Administration.”
A White House memo in late September suggested rooting out “ideologies that label entire groups of Americans as inherently racist or evil” in diversity training materials by searching for keywords such as “white privilege,” “systemic racism,” “intersectionality” and “unconscious bias.”
Asked about his executive order during the first presidential debate, Trump said: “They were teaching people that our country is a horrible place, it’s a racist place. And they were teaching people to hate our country. And I’m not gonna allow that to happen.”
Biden responded, “Nobody’s doing that.”
“The fact is that there is racial insensitivity,” he told Trump.
The target of Trump’s executive order was critical race theory, which teaches that racism pervades government and other American institutions, giving white people an advantage.
Trump seized on the issue following appearances by conservative activist Christopher Rufo on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”
“What I’ve discovered is that critical race theory has become, in essence, the default ideology of the federal bureaucracy and is now being weaponized against the American people,” Rufo, director of the Discovery Institute’s Center on Wealth & Poverty in Seattle, said on Carlson’s show.
Rufo celebrated achieving his goal – “persuading the President of the United States to abolish critical race theory in the federal government” – posting on Facebook moments after Trump issued the order.
The Trump administration also challenged corporate efforts to recruit more Black executives and executives of color into leadership ranks.
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