Ahead of the election, Attorney General Mark Herring asked President Donald Trump to rescind his executive order on diversity training.
Herring co-signed a letter complaining about the potential limitations imposed on “implicit bias training for federal contractors and federal grantees.” Implicit bias refers to the idea that individuals aren’t aware of their attitudes or stereotypes about others.
This idea is very similar to critical race theory (CRT), which asserts that racism is inherent and permanent within all aspects of American political, social, and economic structures – or, “systemic racism.”
Connecticut’s Democratic Attorney General, William Tong, authored the letter. Herring is listed as one co-signer of 17 other Democratic attorney generals from California, Massachusetts, Colorado, Michigan, Delaware, Minnesota, Hawaii, Nevada, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin. President Donald Trump’s order was issued at the end of September.
The letter criticized the president for the order’s language. The attorney generals claimed that the president denied that unconscious biases exist. However, nowhere did the order deny the existence of unconscious bias.
The order mentioned the two words, “unconscious” and “bias,” separately. In reference to bias, the order prohibited assigning bias to an individual due to their race or sex.
As for unconsciousness, the order prohibited claiming individuals are unconsciously and inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive due to their race or sex. These two separate prohibitions were categorized under what the order called “race or sex scapegoating.”
Further down, the letter argued that harmful biases inherently impact “certain groups” and can lead to racism, sexism, and general discrimination.
“However, implicit biases are fueled by stereotypes and can cause judgments which result in disparate outcomes based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, or social-economic status. These biases have been embedded in our unconscious through years of exposure to harmful cultural stereotypes and narratives. In certain settings, like the workplace, implicit biases may impede collaboration and affect understanding, judgments, actions and decisions on an unconscious level in a way that is harmful to members of certain groups. In turn, they can perpetuate and justify racist and sexist policies, practices and behaviors. To eliminate harmful bias, research suggests that conscious awareness of one’s own implicit biases is critical.”
Their pushback against the order indicates that no matter the outcome of the election, states will fight to maintain government-funded training on diversity, equity, and inclusion.
After listing its grievances, the letter asked that the president include written clarification. The attorney generals cited uncertainty as to the order’s application to the states, as well as its impact on “racial justice.”
“Equal justice under the 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.”
Of the attorney generals signed onto the letter, three were Black, one was Asian, one was Hispanic, one was Asian Indian, and ten were White.
In Herring’s press release, he stated that the executive order was “vague and contradictory.” The attorney general then listed his involvement mandating training on implicit bias and racial bias as part of “21st century policing skills.”
Last year, Herring dropped out of the gubernatorial race after admitting he’d worn blackface as an undergraduate. The attorney general had criticized Governor Ralph Northam’s blackface incident only four days earlier.
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