As public awareness of systemic racism and sexism has grown, the current U.S. administration has taken extreme measures to thwart progress toward a more just and equitable society. Its latest salvo is the September 22, 2020, Presidential Executive Order that essentially bars the U.S. armed services, federal contractors and certain federal grant recipients, including universities, from conducting workplace training that addresses systemic racial and gender bias.
The University of Washington School of Social Work joins the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare (AASWSW), the National Academy of Education (NAEd) and the American Educational Research Association (AERA) in strongly condemning this measure, which the AASWSW characterizes as an attempt to “whitewash our history and institutionalize racism and sexism.” [Read the full AASWSW statement.]
The Executive Order describes “blame-focused diversity training” based on “divisive concepts” that promote “race or sex scapegoating” and “race or sex stereotyping.” In doing so, the measure caricatures efforts to illuminate unconscious bias and structural barriers faced every day by women, Black and Indigenous people, and other people of color across the country—aspects of discrimination that have been well documented over decades of social science research.
As the NAEd and AERA said in a joint statement this week, “Today, we must stand against the notion that systemic racism does not exist. Institutions examining their practices, researchers interrogating these issues, or educational programming confronting the topic should be applauded for tackling the most difficult of problems.” [Read the full NAEd/AERA statement.]
Social and racial justice are at the very core of social work, and the UW School of Social Work repudiates the Executive Order’s distorted characterization of diversity and equity training and its hostility to concepts such as unconscious bias and structural racism.
We join with national leaders in education and social work in calling for the immediate reversal of this Executive Order, which aims to hinder free discourse and a meaningful reckoning with deep-rooted inequities in our society.
The UW School of Social Work Leadership Team