DEI is the New Brainwashing
A buddy of mine recently had to attend a full-day of DEI training for his job with the town of Frisco. I’m going to repeat that: My buddy recently had to attend a full-day of DEI training for his job with the town of Frisco, quite possibly the whitest and most liberal town this side of the Mississippi. He’s an accountant. He runs the books for the town and then hands those over to the budget office for implementation. He barely even interacts with anyone in his office, and yet there he sat for an entire day, being told how to interact with the co-workers he barely even sees. Yeah, that’s completely fucked up.
Now, I want to state here and now that I fully support everything that Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training teaches. It’s the idea of forcing it on others that I take issue with. If you read this column on the regular, you know that I very much believe in the full equality of all people based on race, gender, and sexual orientation, not just in the workplace, but in every aspect of our social existence. Equity, diversion, and inclusion should be goals that we are all striving for, and creating and maintaining workplaces that model those values such that every employee feels equally appreciated and respected should be the aim of each and every employer across our remarkably diverse nation. But when we foist those values onto all employees and compel adherence to that particular belief system, we encroach on the autonomy of each of those employees, taking away their right to make up their own minds about the values they want to embrace. We teeter on the very edge of brainwashing.
And yet DEI trainings have become the rage all across corporate America workplaces. Recent polling from Color Us United and Echelon Insights revealed that more employees of large corporations have attended training programs on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion than sales, customer service, general company procedures, or other sessions that could improve their work performance. More than 90 percent of respondents reported that they had attended a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training, while 78 percent reported that they had attended a training on general company policies or procedures. Only 67 percent of respondents reported that they had attended an on-the-job type training. Meanwhile, Corporate America seems to have moved on from the MeToo era, with just 59 percent of employees having attended training on sexual harassment. And just what do we expect to gain from impelling employees to take these trainings?
While I understand and support the intentions behind these DEI trainings, the notion that you can erase decades of social imprinting in a single day of education is simply preposterous. No one walks out of these trainings feeling any differently about race, colour, gender or sexual orientation. They might tell their bosses or the people who run these sessions that they do, but then they go home to their friends and families and go right back to the same perspectives they had to begin with. And to be honest, they have the right to hold those perspectives, even if they are wrong.
That’s because we are supposed to live in a nation where people have the right to think whatever they like, even if it is prejudiced, ignorant, or downright wrong. I want workplaces to reflect the racial, ethnic, and sexual orientation demographics of our society as a whole, and I want those workplaces to engender equal footing for everyone, but mandating “training” as a means to institute those policies is as backwards as the maladies they are intended to address. We have got to get away from this idea that we are morally superior and that we have the entitlement to compel others to adopt those same views.
Employers have every right to expect a certain decorum and code of interaction that protects the emotional and physical well-being of their employees and that fosters a workplace that ensures mutual respect for all. In other words, employers have every right to dictate which BEHAVIOURS are or are not acceptable in their place of business. But DEI training crosses the line into telling employees how to THINK about these topics and that raises significant issues that are highly problematic.
According to reports, American Express employees are taught capitalism was built upon “racist logics of domination.” The trainings also compelled employees to deconstruct their “racial and sexual identities” and rank themselves on a hierarchy of privilege. Coca-Cola told employees to “be less white.” Lowe’s urged white employees to “cede power to people of color.” The Salvation Army urged employees to “repent” for the country’s racism. My buddy was told that he could no longer use the word “jip” because its derivation is insulting to the gypsy community, though I don’t remember the last time I saw a gypsy roaming the hallways of the Town of Frisco or anywhere else in corporate America for that matter. I don’t disagree with any of these ideologies, but I do have serious concerns about forcing adherence to them as a continued condition for employment. People should be free to think what they like, even when it is wrong. And we should have enough faith in the correctness of those ideas to present them and let people derive their own conclusions rather than foisting our own moral perspective on them.
In the end, it is just this type of cultural brainwashing that has riled the American right into moving even further away from the norm or middle ground. They hear this type of nonsense and believe it to represent a significant erosion of the types of liberties this country was founded upon. And they are right. Worse yet, these policies have come to be seen as part of the liberal agenda, aligned with the Democrat party, and pushed many political centrists into affiliating themselves and voting for members of the far right conservatism that has wreaked havoc on American politics. If we want to win these people back and advance a philosophy of acceptance and respect for everyone, the way to do so is not by shoving it further and further down the throats of those who see reticent to embrace it. It comes in modelling that respect and tolerance for everyone to see. And it starts by respecting their right to have values that may well differ from our own.
Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: In 1000 Words or Less every THURSDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com