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ACA Responds to Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping

by Danny Le | Sep 29, 2020
The September 22, 2020 executive order seeks to combat "division and inefficiency" in federal contracting by prohibiting contractors from providing employee training on "divisive concepts." ACA is very concerned that the Executive Order would place an outright ban on the important work and results stemming from meaningful training in diversity and inclusion.

The Executive Order issued by the Trump Administration on September 22, 2020 would prohibit any diversity and inclusion training that promotes messages which imply that “an individual, by virtue of their race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously." Without being able to use these words or concepts, as well as the prohibition of stating that, "meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist, or were created by a particular race to oppress another race," would seriously compromise the effectiveness of diversity and inclusion training.

The September 22, 2020 executive order seeks to combat "division and inefficiency" in federal contracting by prohibiting contractors from providing employee training on "divisive concepts," which it defines as ideas such as: 

  • One race or sex is superior to another
  • The U.S. is fundamentally racist or sexist
  • Individuals, by virtue of their race or sex, are inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, either consciously or unconsciously
  • An individual should be discriminated against or adversely treated based on race or sex
  • Members of one race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race or sex
  • An individual's moral character depends on his or her race or sex
  • An individual member of a particular race or sex bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex
  • Any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress because of his or her race or sex
  • Meritocracy or traits such as "hard work ethic" are racist or sexist, or were created by a particular race to oppress another race
  • Any other form of race or sex stereotyping or any other form of race or sex scapegoating

Response by the American Counseling Association:

The mission of the American Counseling Association is to “promote the professional development of counselors, advocate for the profession, and ensure ethical, culturally-inclusive practices that protect those using counseling services.” With the prohibitions referenced in the Executive Order, the work of professional counselors, counselor educators, and institutions who employ those in the counseling profession, would be severely limited.

We are very concerned that the Executive Order would place an outright ban on the important work and results stemming from meaningful training in diversity and inclusion. To state that funding will be withheld from those agencies and grantees who do not adhere to the Executive Order seems especially punitive and counterintuitive to the benefit of diversity and inclusion training.

The Executive Order requires the U.S. Department of Labor to create new standards within the next 60 days, which effectively means that those engaged in diversity and inclusion training, or who are considering it at some time during 2020, are now left in limbo as to whether to pursue this training. Because ongoing diversity and inclusion training is conducted at institutions of higher education, in the corporate sector, and in organizations around the country who may receive some amount of government funding, this Executive Order has a chilling effect on what these entities need to do to address key issues that help them to continue both growth and productivity.

The full implications of this Executive Order and their potential impact the counseling profession will not be known until it is enacted.  ACA will continue to monitor and update on the progress of this Executive Order.  Stay connected through our social media channels, Counselor Insider, and ACA Member news.

Keep informed and advocate for issues that support the counseling profession.

Learn more about ACA’s 2020 Policy Agenda here. If you have questions, please e-mail advocacy@counseling.org

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