The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund sued two federal agencies for failing to respond to public records requests for documents related to the Trump administration’s executive order restricting the U.S. government and its contractors from conducting diversity training that examine systemic racism, white privilege and other race and gender bias issues.
A federal court judge blocked the executive order in January, and President Joe Biden reversed it shortly after taking office.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed two complaints this week, one against the Office of Management and Budget, the other against the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, saying the records are critical to understanding the motivations behind the executive order and the extent of its implementation and to assessing any harm that came from it.
The OFCCP declined to comment on pending litigation, and the OMB did not respond to a request for comment.
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The stated objective of the executive order issued by former President Donald Trump in late September was “to combat offensive and anti-American race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating.”
The Labor Department told USA TODAY last year that the elimination of “race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating in employment” was “a key civil rights priority of the Trump Administration.”
The order affected reinvigorated efforts to reverse patterns of discrimination and exclusion in the workplace after the death of George Floyd, a Black man, under the knee of white officer in Minneapolis.
Government agencies, Fortune 500 companies, educational institutions, nonprofits and any others that had federal contracts or had planned to apply for them halted or reconsidered training programs.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund sued two federal agencies for failing to respond to public records requests for documents related to the Trump administration's executive order restricting the U.S. government and its contractors from conducting diversity training that examine systemic racism, white privilege and other race and gender bias issues. (Photo: Kelsey Kremer, The Register / USA TODAY Network)
“The chilling effect of former President Trump’s Executive Order – which sought to rewrite this nation’s history by barring discussions about the legacy and impact of systemic racism and gender discrimination – demands a comprehensive evaluation,” associate director-counsel Janai Nelson said in a statement. “Federal agencies are obligated to provide the information necessary for LDF and any other interested members of the public to assess the dangerous impact this order may have had. And we are prepared to force the government to comply with its public information obligations to the full extent of the law.”
A Trump White House memo in late September suggested rooting out “ideologies that label entire groups of Americans as inherently racist or evil” in diversity training materials by searching for keywords such as “white privilege,” “systemic racism,” “intersectionality” and “unconscious bias.”
Asked about his executive order during the first presidential debate, Trump said: “They were teaching people that our country is a horrible place, it’s a racist place. And they were teaching people to hate our country. And I’m not gonna allow that to happen.”
Biden responded, “Nobody’s doing that.”
“The fact is that there is racial insensitivity,” he told Trump.
Trump’s target was critical race theory, which teaches that racism pervades government and other American institutions, giving white people an advantage.
Trump seized on the issue following appearances by conservative activist Christopher Rufo on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”
Rufo, director of the Discovery Institute’s Center on Wealth & Poverty in Seattle, has called for conservatives and others to publicly oppose Biden’s reversal of the executive order. He’s also pledged to “wage relentless legal warfare against race theory in America’s institutions” and is pushing legislation and litigation across the country.
“Right now, conservatives, moderates, and anti-woke liberals must make a choice: will you stand against critical race theory or will you enable it?” he wrote in a newsletter last week. “ This will be the crucial battle in the years to come and we must make it clear where we stand.”
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