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Voices / Letters from readers

Not facing racial inequities will not make them go away

I am disturbed by President Trump’s recent memo regarding diversity training.

This memo, issued on Sept. 4 and followed by an executive order on Sept. 22, states that the executive branch agencies have spent taxpayer dollars on training government workers to believe divisive anti-American propaganda.

It states that diversity trainings focusing on white privilege, critical race theory, and racist origins of the United States create “division and resentment” among federal employees.

The memo states the government is “fully committed to the fair and equal treatment of all individuals in the United States.”

I know from experience doing anti-racism work since 1958 that when white people understand and acknowledge the privilege that we have, this acknowledgment creates more connection with people of color.

In understanding the privilege white people have, the goal and intent are not to feel guilty but to realize the responsibility we have. This conversation may be uncomfortable, but being uncomfortable allows for learning and can lead to taking anti-racist actions. Being silent about this reality creates divisiveness.

Critical race theory and the racist origins of the United States are important in a country that values freedom of speech. Too many of us have been educated in a system that overlooks the racist origins and present realities of systemic racism, understanding it only as individual acts of overt hatred.

Many scholars have worked to prove a more accurate representation of the history of the United States. Since June, many white U.S. Americans who have not realized the inequities of systems such as health care and criminal justice have been awakened.

Not facing this issue will not make it go away; it will continue to cause division among those who have suffered these inequities and those who have not.

Equality is an often-claimed value in the United States, but I believe we should strive for equity.

Equality means everyone gets the same treatment and does not consider the barriers established by the historic and present reality, that people of color have and are experiencing. Equity, however, means removing the barriers and putting policies in place that ensure that everyone has equal access and opportunity.

Trump also would negate social group identities, claiming we are individuals and that we are all human. I believe we are all unique, we are all like all others, and we are members of various social groups that have meaning in our society.

I hope you join me in taking a stand to promote freedom of speech, equity, and a realistic view of the United States regarding social justice.

Claire B. Halverson

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Originally published in The Commons issue #583 (Wednesday, October 14, 2020). This story appeared on page B6.

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