Critical Race Theory, Training, and Federal Employees

Critical race theory has been making headlines in passionate school board meetings and in schools. It is now back in focus for federal employees.

On August 18, 2011, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order entitled “Establishing a Coordinated Government-wide Initiative to Promote Diversity and Inclusion in the Federal Workforce”. The gist of the Order was directing agencies to emphasize diversity and inclusion training throughout the federal workforce.

Critical Race Theory and Federal Training

That Executive Order was rescinded by the Trump administration. The rationale for rescinding the Obama order was, according to the Office of Management and Budget:

[E]mployees across the Executive Branch have been required to attend training where they are told that “virtually all White people contribute to racism” or where they are required to say that they “benefit from racism.” According to press reports, in some cases these training (sic) have further claimed that there is racism embedded in the belief that America is the land of opportunity or the belief that the most qualified person should receive a job….The President has directed me to ensure that Federal agencies cease and desist from using taxpayer dollars to fund these divisive, un-American propaganda training sessions.

The OMB memo concluded with the statement that “The divisive, false, and demeaning propaganda of the critical race theory movement is contrary to all we stand for as Americans and should have no place in the Federal government.” The president also sent out a tweet in effect supporting the OMB memo that “critical race theory” is a “sickness that cannot be allowed to continue.”

Actions by President Biden

On his first day in office, President Biden rescinded the Trump Executive Order on diversity training. As a follow-up to the original order, on June 25, 2021, the new president issued another order ordering agencies to “take steps to implement or increase the availability and use of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility training programs for employees, managers, and leadership.”

In effect, the new Order issued by President Biden is largely the same as the Obama Order regarding aspects of diversity training.

The Obama memo never mentioned “critical race theory”. The latest Executive Order also contains no mention of this theory. Nevertheless, news reports have stated the way diversity and inclusion training was being taught created a threat to the United States and threatened America’s core values. The report also contends the training in schools and the government is leading to riots in the streets in America as we lose our national identity and focus primarily on racial groups as advocated by far-left ideology.

For those with an interest in some of the comments on segments of some government training seminars, this article has some highlights and a brief video segment from one of the speakers.

Critical race theory has certainly been in the news as the subject has been the topic of tense, impassioned debate at school board meetings and underlying actions taken by some schools in our country. And, while the latest Executive Order does not reference the subject, it is not clear how it will actually play out in federal agencies. In other words, will critical race theory be a topic being advocated for federal employees as one theory, perhaps the dominant theory of race relations adopted by the federal government?

Philosophical Difference Between Two Presidents

The difference in philosophy between Joe Biden and Donald Trump was quickly summarized in the first presidential debate with the two candidates.

The topic was raised by moderator Chris Wallace asking why the President issued an order to stop training on critical race theory. As president, Trump stated, “I ended it because it is racist.” He added that the training was “teaching people to hate our country.”

Former Vice-President Joe Biden stated in response: “Nobody’s doing that” and “He’s the racist.”

What Is Critical Race Theory?

Critical race theory is a way of seeing the history of America through the lens of racism. It centers on the theory that racism is “systemic” and America functions in a way of maintaining the dominance of white people in American society. (See Are White Federal Employees Inherently Racist?)

Bill To Ban Training on Critical Race Theory

The topic is emotional and intense within the federal government as well as at school board meetings, in schools, and in some state and local governments. The question often boils down to “Is America an inherently racist society?”

At about the same time as the latest Executive Order was issued by the president, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) (S. 2221) and Congressman Burgess Owens (R-UT) (H.R.3235) have introduced bills to ban teaching critical race theory in the federal government.

Senator Cruz stated, in a press release:

The federal government has no right to force a political agenda onto Americans, especially one that aims to tear down our institutions and divide us based on race. Critical Race Theory originated out of the critical race studies movement. It is a Marxist ideology that sees the world as a battle, not between the classes – as classical Marxism does – but between the races. This is inherently bigoted.


President Biden has followed a liberal political philosophy on racial issues, equality, diversity, inclusion, etc. The latest Executive Order is consistent with the philosophy he has displayed since taking office.

We do not know with certainty whether critical race theory will surface with the new Order similar to the one issued by former President Obama. That ultimately contributed to the intense controversy occurring during the Trump administration—and now being played out in various ways at state and local levels.

Numerous bills have been introduced in Congress to attempt to negate the training or indoctrination of Americans on some of the main aspects of critical race theory. With Democrats having a majority in the House and the Senate split 50-50, legislation of this nature is unlikely to pass. Even in the unlikely event a bill such as the recent one introduced by Senator Cruz did pass in the Senate, it would not pass in the House.

For federal employees, the issue is what type of training will they receive on overall topics of diversity and inclusion. There is little doubt critical race theory will find its way into some agencies and their diversity training. Will the training lead to a more efficient and effective federal government or one that leads to even more impassioned division among Americans?

We will not know the answer to that for a few more months or years.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47