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Mental health experts decry orders to restrict federal diversity training

Aimed at denying well-documented systemic inequities, APA president says

OW Staff Writer | 10/15/2020, midnight

The following is a statement by Sandra L. Shullman, PhD, president of the American Psychological Association (APA), regarding the Trump administration’s multiple efforts to restrict certain topics in employee diversity and inclusion training for federal agencies, contractors, grant recipients and the military. President Trump asserts that he is ending these trainings because they are “racist.”

“These orders are about much more than restricting diversity training; they are aimed at denying the well-documented systemic inequities that exist in America,” Shullman said. “Our nation must lead the way to reducing racism and inequities through training and education, rather than undermining much-needed work to address the results of decades of systemic discrimination. To silence trained professionals working to correct the systems and policies that produce inequity is unjustified.

“The playing field is not level for all Americans. Access to opportunity – and quality of employment, housing, food, education, public safety and healthcare – are unequal depending on your zip code. The COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately affected communities of color, is just the latest example of this reality. The cause of these inequities is both systemic and interpersonal.

“Research-based diversity training is an important tool that can help organizations and individuals better understand and address these critical problems facing America.

“That is why this matters. Actively working to undermine or destabilize efforts to correct inequities is both illogical and deplorable. Rather than halt diversity training, we should expand the ranks of those who do this work and ensure that all organizations have access to evidence-based training interventions.

“There is an urgent need for us to address the reality of our times. Working to raise awareness of and begin to correct the systemic inequities in our society is in keeping with our most cherished American values of equality and fairness.”