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AASWSW Strongly Opposes the September 22, 2020 Presidential Executive Order on Combatting Race and Sex Stereotyping

Under the twin cloaks of personal and opportunity equality, both enshrined in our Independence Declaration and our Constitution, the President of the United States is seeking to whitewash our history and institutionalize racism and sexism. His Executive Order to radically cripple diversity and equity training designed to promote racial and sexual equality extends to all federal staff training and all training conducted under federal contracts and grants. This is a tragedy of monumental proportions that cannot be permitted to stand.

Our history over the past 400 years includes centuries of slavery for Blacks, second class status for women, including prohibitions on voting and the right to hold property, ethnic cleansing of American Indians, and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, among other major inequalities. Most immigrant groups have experienced significant discriminations upon their arrival. For the President to ignore this history and its consequences, and simply assert that all Americans are equal flies in the face of obvious racism, sexism, discrimination, and inequality that we all observe every day.

Problems ignored lead to equality denied. Major movements, such as Black Lives Matter and the Million Women March, are born of centuries of neglect. They seek obvious redress.

Equality does not equate to sameness, contrary to what the President asserts. Differences due to race and sex must be acknowledged and addressed, not swept under the rug. Diversity is a source of America’s strength. It also reflects long-standing problems that we must confront every day. Diversity and equity training is a key way through which these issues can be discussed and addressed.

Bringing structural racism and sexism to the surface in diversity training can lead to discomfort in those being trained. Topics such as the harms caused by micro-aggressions, White savior efforts, and unequal attention, whether conscious or unconscious, can be disconcerting. Such discomfort can promote growth and needed change.

Finally, the President’s efforts are occurring in the shadow of our Constitution. By the 1st Amendment, all Americans are guaranteed the right to free speech. The President’s Executive Order is a deliberate attempt to restrict this essential right by controlling the content of training. We must oppose this perversion of our democratic principles.

Thus, the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare opposes in the strongest terms this effort by the President to deny equality to minorities and women by planned neglect of our Constitution and our history, and promotion of the status quo. Further, the Academy calls upon the US Congress, the Courts, and all Americans who vote to prevent the implementation of this Executive Order.

To paraphrase President Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg in 1863, we must assure that we have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people that shall not perish from this earth. This means that we must take action now so that we can arrive at the day on which all Americans will feel confident in their equality with others and in their equality of opportunity.

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