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President Crossman Responds to White House Directive to End Diversity Training Programs

University News | 09.08.20

Adler University stands against the recent directive by the White House calling federal agencies to end diversity training programs. Adler University President Raymond E. Crossman, Ph.D., addresses the importance of continuing the anti-racist conversations and actions this directive is trying to stifle, in a message to students, faculty, and staff.

This past Friday evening, the White House directed federal agencies to end diversity training programs, calling them on Saturday “a sickness that cannot be allowed to continue.”

I realize that this directive was one more move by the White House to enshrine white supremacy in U.S. policy and practice in the context of the upcoming election.  But I write to you about this specific pronouncement of the United States government because I believe it will have narrow effects on the kind of work that is important to us across all three of our campuses.

It is clear to me that this directive is meant to have a chilling effect – to silence conversations and stifle work to address racial injustice that is happening beyond federal agencies in many organizations across both the United States and Canada.  I am writing to let you know that no such chill will extend into our university.

Over the past 15 weeks since the activism following the murder of George Floyd, there has been growing awareness about structural racism in our countries and institutions.  That awareness includes our increasing realization of how racism manifests at Adler University, as you have heard from me and others across the University this summer.  Our reckoning is underway thanks to many of our Black students, faculty, and staff – who have described structural racism in our classrooms and workplace and who have generously shared a document detailing their ensuing demands and expectations to drive the University toward a more equitable future.  University senior management is meeting with the newly formed Black Caucus this Friday as we move those demands forward into actions.  Our actions will include more diversity training of the kind that the White House is seeking to eliminate, and will also include concomitant anti-racism practices in our classrooms and workplace this fall and across time.

I believe it is important we engage in precisely the kinds of conversations the White House spoke this past weekend about controlling or stopping.  Specifically censured or forbidden topics in this directive were the suggestion that the United States could be racist, discussion of critical race theory, and exploration of white privilege.  As you may know, critical race theory examines how racism is perpetuated through interlocking societal assumptions, practices, and structures; white privilege is advantage that benefits white people over non-white people.  Understanding these concepts is fundamental to challenging racism.  Ibram Kendi defines racism as “a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequality… substantiated by racist ideas” and anti-racism as “a powerful collection of anti-racist policies that lead to racial equity… substantiated by anti-racist ideas.”  Anti-racist ideas emerge from these conversations that are presently under siege.  Anti-racist ideas must of course be followed by anti-racist actions, but the ideas are an important first step to combat white supremacy.

The White House edict was a move to control and frighten those who see hope in these conversations – in the cruel context of continuing differential health effects of the pandemic for the marginalized; ongoing police violence against those who are Black, indigenous, and people of color; greater economic consequences of the global recession for people and communities who are most poor; and other mounting effects of oppression.  But we won’t be bullied.  Our anti-racism work will proceed through our collaboration, intentionality, and resolve this year.

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