Sam Lauria is a sophomore journalism major and an assistant opinions editor at The Statesman.
When directly asked to condemn white supremacy in this year’s first presidential debate, President Donald Trump never formally answered the question. Instead, he publicly supported a white supremacist group — the Proud Boys. On Sept. 17, Trump created a plan to “restore patriotism” in the American school system by denouncing the validity of the New York Times’ 1619 Project, a series of articles detailing American history through the perspective of African American slaves. He also condemns critical race theory. Trump has consistently proven that he does not support diversity and his blatant racism is far from over.
On Sept. 22, Trump continued his trend of reversing the progress of inclusion by issuing another executive order that combats racial and sexual stereotyping. This order is just another one of the president’s harmful actions to defend prejudice and white supremacy.
By quoting documents such as the Declaration of Independence and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, the executive order details how America was founded on concepts of equality. The executive order then goes on to state that promoting activities that educate employees about diversity and privilege is inherently damaging to the values of equality that Trump is suddenly so passionate about. He barred federal funding for these programs and plans on condemning federal employees from participating in such events. Additionally, the president stated that noncompliance with any of the rules or regulations from this new order can result in the suspension or termination of a federal employee.
The order also claims the concept of “equality” has been twisted into a more violent ideology in recent years — undoing hundreds of years of progress made by the American people. Throughout the document, the president claims that the concept of equality has been defiled into views based on “social and political identities rather than the inherent and equal dignity of every person as an individual.” What he fails to describe is that we cannot achieve true equality until we eliminate the prejudice that currently exists.
America is a country founded upon conquest and inequality shrouded by the appeal of freedom of expression. Yes, we do have more freedoms than many other countries, but there are still injustices perpetuated against marginalized communities. By forbidding diversity training in the workplace, people might not be aware of certain privileges they may have, or may not be able to recognize when they are being taken advantage of. This executive order severely limits progress towards eliminating prejudice by censoring the flow of important information that allows people to recognize and put a stop to oppression.
In his executive order, Trump indirectly called out the recent increase in diversity movements, such as Pride and Black Lives Matter (BLM). He said that they “… misinterpret our country’s history,” “are designed to divide us” and “threaten to infect core institutions of our country.” The order claims that people are pushing ideas rooted in a false belief that America is an “irredeemably racist and sexist country.” It continues to claim that (white) people are immediately branded as oppressors, simply because of their skin color.
What he does not recognize is that the movements mentioned above were formed because of the injustices that marginalized communities experienced and are still subjected to today.
A study conducted by The Sentencing Project found that Black individuals are about six times as likely to be convicted, incarcerated and imprisoned as white people — something the BLM movement raises awareness about. Another study stated that because of discrimination from family members or colleagues, 20-40% of the homeless community in the U.S. is made up of LGBTQ+ individuals. This, among many other forms of prejudice and homophobia, is one of the problems many members of the LGBTQ+ community endure.
Prejudice and discrimination on the basis of race, gender and sex still go on in America. Trump does allude to this in his order, but instead of talking about minorities who are actually oppressed, he berates them for vilifying white individuals.
The executive order defends these actions by stating that “racism is interwoven into every fabric of America,” and continually implying that straight white males will always be stereotyped as intrinsically bad people. These claims are both incorrect and tone-deaf to systemic issues that have historically disenfranchised marginalized groups of people.
Secondly, although minorities can be prejudiced towards white people, you cannot address this issue without also acknowledging the fact that livelihoods are at stake when people of color have historically faced racism. Trump claims that “all individuals are created equal and should be allowed an equal opportunity under the law,” but does not address that many people, particularly minorities, are barred from having this opportunity.
By refusing to incorporate diversity training into federal jobs, President Trump is blinding American employees to the obvious prejudice and white privilege that exists in this country. As the president, Trump’s job should be to unite the people, not divide them. Under a façade of “equality” in the workplace, this executive order does nothing except risk amplifying racism, sexism and homophobia in this country.