In a memo released Friday, the Donald Trump administration called for a ban on tax dollar-funded training sessions that explain white privilege and critical race theory, which the memo described as “un-American propaganda.”
The memo, penned by Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought, is sort of meta — it’s the Executive Branch discussing press reports about the Executive Branch itself and its own training programs. The memo states that “according to press reports” employees in the Executive Branch have hitherto been required to attend training sessions that teach them how “virtually all white people contribute to racism” and benefit from racism.
Why the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) would need to cite press reports on how taxpayer dollars are being spent is anyone’s guess. Though that’s hardly the most problematic piece here. Critics online were quick to point out the memo’s obvious fundamental contradiction:
Let’s be clear anti-racism, cultural competency or critical race theory training is not un-American propaganda and any attempt to perpetuate this narrative is divisive and is in keeping w/maintaining structural racism. Just say you like & benefit from white privilege and move on. pic.twitter.com/oybXWOQJG0
— Rep. Erica Crawley (@EricaCCrawley) September 5, 2020
Critical race theory helps contextualize how systemic racism affects us. Trump and his party perpetuate systemic racism, but pretend that it doesn’t exist. Of course he wants “sightings” of CRT reported. This is white supremacy trying to cover its tracks. https://t.co/3rYsjb1xAM
— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) September 5, 2020
Trump, the same man who said white supremacists were fine people and also wanted BLM protesters beaten, moved to ban federal agencies from any training that mentions critical race theory or white privilege. What a white privileged thing to do.
— A Bearer Of Dad News ✊🏾 (@HomeWithPeanut) September 5, 2020
The White House memo went on to say that these training programs buck against the country’s fundamental beliefs, though it doesn’t make any immediate changes on its own. The OMB will release more detailed requirements on defunding these programs, but for now it calls for agencies to identify which trainings discuss concepts like white privilege, critical race theory, “or any other training or propaganda effort that teaches or suggests either (1) that the United States is an inherently racist or evil country or (2) that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil.”
Unlike what the memo implies, systemic racism is very real and in fact embedded in the fabric of the United States. Enslaved people built the White House, the very institution that released the memo. Research shows when minorities “whiten” their names, they receive more job interviews — debunking the White House’s notions that meritocracy is what awards people jobs.
New @WhiteHouse memo bans federal programs from teaching about White privilege or critical race theory. Trump administration does not see systemic racism. Fish don’t see water either; not because it isn’t there but because it’s all around them. https://t.co/acOaOmxr0u
— Jon Hutson (@JonHutson) September 5, 2020
The memo comes not only during ongoing months of social unrest in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, but also after protests were further sparked by the subsequent killings of two other Black men: Jacob Blake and Daniel Prude. The memo doesn’t mention these current events, nor where the tax dollars will be redirected.
As Jonathan Hutson, Principal at Global Media Max, wrote on Twitter, “Fish don’t see water either; not because it isn’t there but because it’s all around them.” So perhaps not mentioning the recent injustices against Black Americans is the most American part of this memo.