We need to repent for benefiting from a system that allows for oppression of other races and sexes. That is the message that a white priest from the Diocese of Erie repeated at the Black Lives Matter march that I attended this summer in Perry Square.
Now this sent me plunging into my implicit biases and what I have done subconsciously to reap benefits from a system with a flawed foundation.
This rang true to me because our forefathers wrote the Constitution at a time when the culture of America was much different. The branches of government have sought to uphold this Constitution with their representations over the years to ensure fair treatment. Then, enter 2020.
President Trump issued an executive order on Sept. 22 known as the “Executive Order on Combatting Race and Sex Stereotyping.” At first glance, the title sounds like it could be very progressive and helpful, but upon further inspection, it states: “… people are pushing a different vision of America that is grounded in hierarchies based on collective social and political identities rather than in the inherent and equal dignity of every person as an individual. This ideology is rooted in 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.”
There are a few ways to take this. First, I agree that we need to develop a better identity as Americans. For years now, patriotism has become highly weaponized rather than a symbol of unity.
On the other hand, it seems that in this very statement, the order claims that being American isn’t taking responsibility for the innate differences between people based on history.
I believe stereotyping can be very harmful but pretending it doesn’t exist and we are all the same is an even more damaging narrative.
Although it says that inclusion training at institutions is still allowed, it emphasizes that any training that includes material about inherent racism, sexism or oppressiveness on the basis of a person’s face or sex will lose its federal funding.
Having rules in place to not discriminate against someone due to their race or sex is crucial, don’t get me wrong. But it is also elementary. It’s the bandage being put on a septic infection.
To get to the root in the systemic inequalities, we must face the guilt that comes along with it. And I think it’s OK to say I’m an American and I’m proud of that, but I’m not proud of some things and that’s why I’m working toward addressing it. A lot of other people were too, but now things are going backward.
The University of Iowa announced that it is pausing its diversity and inclusion training for evaluation due to its possible loss of federal funding.
Collins Aerospace in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a defense contractor, has also asked its employees to postpone any diversity training due to this order.
Right as we start to make progress as a country, we slide back. The ideologies are “grounded in misrepresentations of our country’s history and its role in the world,” as the order states, but more and more I’m learning people haven’t truly learned our history. Different people have learned different things.
In fifth grade, I was taught that racism ended when slavery did. In that same school, when my friend, one of the three Black students in the school, was being recognized for his achievement at a state music competition, my classmates wore the confederate flag and chanted racist slurs. I watched as the administrators did nothing and my friend retracted more from his own identity.
History can’t be placed in one category because we all learned it differently. What we can do is focus on the history we are making now. Presently, we need to fix a problem fundamentally rooted in the depths of our government, intended to discriminate against certain citizens, regardless of conscious bias. America is not a place where ending slavery ended racism, and America is not a place where an order banning stereotyping will stop the injustices we face from continuing their reckless path.