Trump’s EPA deems anti-racism training “un-American”

By James O’Brien, Staff Writer

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Washington D.C. Photo by James O’Brien

Racism is deeply rooted in our country, and since the 2016 election, this fact has been ever more apparent through the countless violent actions of newly inspired white supremacists. The Trump administration is not responsible for the actions of white supremist groups, but a strong argument can be made that by not consistently and aggressively condemning the actions of these groups, they bare at least partial responsibility. This lack of condemnation is especially relevant because the administration is eager to condemn Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests where isolated events have turned violent or destructive, even when there is little to no connection that those associated with BLM were responsible. This hypocritical approach to addressing racial tensions in our country has left the people wondering: Does the Trump administration have a racist agenda?

Most recently, the Trump administration has taken a significant step in the wrong direction towards addressing racism in our federal government by halting trainings aimed at educating federal employees about racism. In the first week of September, a memorandum was released from the Office of Management and Budget in the White House and sent to the heads of all executive departments and agencies. According to this memo, which was made public in a Politico article, the President was directing agencies to cease conducting “divisive, un-American propaganda training sessions.” This memorandum was in reference to recent training occurring within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA had been conducting an “environmental justice” series that was attempting to educate agency employees on matters related to critical race theory, racial equality resources, and the connection to the EPA’s past, present, and future work and environmental justice.

According to the memorandum, Trump designated any teachings or trainings that suggested “virtually all White people contribute to racism” or that they “benefit from racism” as “un-American propaganda.” It went on to say that these were also any trainings that suggested “that the United States is an inherently racist or evil country” or “that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil.”

This is the same EPA that has consistently been in the crosshairs of public debate surrounding unethical management. Actions such as reassigning senior employees to unsuitable positions, appointing inexperienced individuals to leadership roles, rolling back over 100 environmental protection regulations, significantly cutting agency budgets, improperly managing records, and more have been the source of this questionable management. On the topic of budget, the EPA under this administration has also already proposed to cut the agency’s environmental justice enforcement budget from $9.5 million to $4.8 million this year, according to the same Politico article.

The overall issue here is that this administration, according to this memorandum released from the White House, has made the statement that environmental justice training is inconsistent with the Nation’s beliefs and would only serve as a function of “division and resentment” within the federal workforce, and therefore is not an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars.

We can no longer hide behind the veil of ignorance that racism is an issue of the past. Of course, those who have a deeper understanding of racism in the United States, either those who study it or personally experience it every day, know all too well that racism has continued to exist, both overtly and systemically, in a country that claims to have abolished its presence.

Educating the public about racism, especially the agencies that govern the public, will play a critical role in ensuring we as a nation are addressing both systemic and overt racism in a holistic and sustainable way. Only then can we hope to move our nation in a direction that truly embodies the equitable application of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If we accept the notion that educating ourselves about systems of oppression and the direct mistreatment of certain races of peoples is “un-American,” then we lose all hope of a just American democracy.

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