Targeting ‘White Privilege’ Training as ‘Anti-American’ Underscores America’s Weakness
And it came from the president of the country
Understanding history is liberating. It creates clarity around our current ecosystem and society. It prevents individual defensiveness and creates empathy for fellow humans. It is how to make needed, sustainable change.
And Americans are incredibly bad at it.
The most recent example of Americans’ unwillingness to confront our country’s history comes straight from the top — the president of the United States. President Trump directed the Office of Management and Budget to crack down on federal agencies’ anti-racism training sessions, calling them “divisive, anti-American propaganda.”
I link this to the ideology of blind patriotism — that is, cherry-picking the best parts of our history and staunchly denying or having zero tolerance for any criticism. The idea is that anyone who says anything negative about this country is automatically considered “unpatriotic.”
In reality, there is nothing more unpatriotic than not making an effort to fully understand your country; both the good and the bad. It creates clarity around the good things to be proud of and fight for, as well as around the bad things to improve and make right.
In the United States, there is no better example than to take a true look at the history of race-relations. When one looks at the history of the institutionalized racial hierarchy, slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow laws, the Great Migration, and the inequitable economic, housing, policing, and education policies that followed, one is able to recognize racial inequalities for what they are today.
It recognizes racism as an institution that benefits whites and aims to uphold that position for whites. When one does this, one can take the individualization out of racism, which eliminates personal defensiveness and creates empathy and understanding to fix the institution.
I can tell you as someone who does anti-racism trainings that having them available in the workplace is an incredible opportunity to break through that initial fragility and support organizations and individuals to make progress.
Instead, Americans continue to deny this aspect of our society. Instead, we have the president of this country ensuring that it remains deniable. His memo states that “the divisive, false, and demeaning propaganda of the critical race theory movement is contrary to all we stand for as Americans and should have no place in the Federal government.”
If that’s the case, then America stands for denial and a perpetual existence in a space of “ignorance is bliss.” Bliss for white people, that is.
And we will never make change.