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Claiming that it will “effectively reverse decades of progress in combating racial inequality,” the American Nursing Association (ANA), the American Medical Association (AMA), and the American Hospital Association (AHA) have called upon the White House to rescind Executive Order 13950, “Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping.”

Scheduled to take full effect in November, the September 22 EO directs that federal funds be denied to federal agencies, companies with federal contracts, and recipients of federal grants that sponsor any program that “promotes race or sex-stereotyping or scapegoating.” Any company found to be defying the order is threatened with cancellation of all federal contracts or funding. Non-exempt contractors are expected to start complying by November 21, but federal agencies were immediately affected by the order. The Justice Department has already suspended its diversity and inclusion training, and the prohibition has provoked a tumult at colleges, hospitals, government offices, non-profit organizations, and other institutions dependent on federal monies.

Citing “the pernicious and false belief that America is an irredeemably racist and sexist country; that some people, simply on account of their race or sex, are oppressors; and that racial and sexual identities are more important than our common status as human beings and Americans,” the EO is a widespread condemnation of the standards underlying most mainstream diversity initiatives. The order describes the concepts espoused in recent federal training programs as a “malign ideology” and claims that “research… suggests that blame-focused diversity training reinforces biases and decreases opportunities for minorities.”

The October 14 ANA/AMA/AHA letter states that “as providers of care to diverse communities throughout the country, we urge the Administration to immediately rescind EO 13950 and allow for our continued work on inclusion and equity.” The three signatories warn that Executive Order 13950 will “stifle attempts at open, honest discussion of these issues [e.g., sexism, systemic racism] in the public and private sectors” and argue that “prohibiting federal agencies from conducting and funding trainings that promote racial reconciliation is counterproductive to addressing racism.” Noting the disproportionate impact of the pandemic upon Black and Brown Americans, the letter argues that “vital research conducted at the National Institutes of Health and academic centers to comprehend the effects of structural racism and implicit bias on health care and health outcomes is needed right now more than ever before.”

The Association of American Medical Colleges also spoke out against the order, and in a September 24 letter, stated that “The AAMC, and the academic medical institutions that comprise our membership, are committed to being diverse, inclusive, equitable, and anti-racist organizations. We believe this training is needed now more than ever. The AAMC intends to continue our trajectory of pursuing and even increasing such training. We urge our member institutions and other affected organizations to do so as well.”

While the academic world is largely seeking to challenge the order, two colleges, the University of Iowa and John A. Logan College, have already announced that they are shuttering their diversity programs, at least on a temporary basis.

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Koren Thomas
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