BALTIMORE, MD (November 2, 2020) – Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh today joined a coalition of attorneys general urging President Donald Trump to rescind his Executive Order on “Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping” that could be misconstrued to prohibit implicit bias training for federal contractors and federal grantees.  The potential chilling effect of this Order in the midst of the nation’s reignited racial justice movement is of particular concern.  The attorneys general affirm the vital role implicit bias training play in furthering the goals of diversity, equity, and inclusion and seek a commitment from the federal government to expand training aimed at understanding and combating racial injustice.

“Intentional or not, Trump’s Executive Order sows confusion and could deter certain employers from engaging in diversity training,” said Attorney General Frosh.

The vague and contradictory executive order decrees a federal policy “not to promote race or sex-stereotyping or scapegoating in the Federal workforce or in the Uniformed Services, and not to allow grant funds to be used for these purposes.”  The order goes on to provide a deeply troubling definition of “race and sex scapegoating” that gravely mischaracterizes how typical diversity and implicit bias training are conducted.

A primary goal of diversity training in the workplace is to raise awareness of the value of collaborating with people of different cultures, races, genders, ethnicities, ages, beliefs, experiences, and ideas. The American economy has greatly benefited from diversity and inclusion training as a more informed and diverse workforce has increased ingenuity and creativity, produced a dramatic increase in productivity and profits, expanded markets, and attracted diverse talent to American firms. 

Implicit biases may impede collaboration and affect understanding, judgment, actions, and decisions that unconsciously harm members of certain groups.  Implicit bias training aims to promote conscious awareness of this bias in order to mitigate its harmful effects.

“All constituents, wherever they may be employed, deserve access to a workplace free of unlawful bias and discrimination.  Whether it is intended to ban implicit bias or unconscious bias training or merely has the tragic and foreseeable consequence of reducing this important work, we firmly oppose the Order’s application in our states,” the attorney general state in the letter.  “Unless the Order is somehow revised to provide clear and unequivocal support for the continued use of implicit bias and unconscious bias training, it should be withdrawn,” the attorneys general further state.

Given the vague and contradictory nature of the order, the attorneys general seek clarification regarding who the order would apply to, and whether the intention of the order is to unlawfully ban or direct the substance of diversity training by state actors.  As state agencies and officials are frequent recipients of federal grants, the order could be misconstrued as intending to prohibit states from conducting implicit bias training.

The attorneys general further state: “Equal justice under law will not be achieved until we acknowledge and reckon with the racial inequities that persist in our society. The nationwide movement for racial justice has heightened awareness of not only how we treat each other as individuals, but also the role systems play in affording, or restraining, the advancement of particular groups.  Our workplaces, public, private, and non-profit, are grappling with how to become more inclusive and equitable.  To that end, the government should expand and increase its commitment to training centered on understanding and combating racial injustice.  Now is the time for greater communication and support for diversity, equity, and inclusion, not less.”

In addition to Attorney General Frosh, the letter was signed by the attorneys general of Connecticut, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

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