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State Dept. Halts Diversity and Training Programs, AIDS Foundation Chicago Responds with Conference

Saturday October 31, 2020

The U.S. State Department has halted all diversity and inclusion training programs for employees at the direction of an Executive Order by President Trump, Reuters reports.

As of Friday, October 23, the State Department has temporarily paused training programs to "allow time for the Department and Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to review program content," states an internal cable obtained by Reuters.

The President's Executive Order, signed September 22, prohibits federal agencies from teaching employees about "divisive concepts" that broadly encompass historical critiques of the U.S as "fundamentally racist or sexist." The order was preceded by a memo issued September 4 by the White House Office of Management and Budget denying taxpayer-funded "un-American propaganda sessions" based on critical race theory and white privilege, allegedly teaching that the U.S. is "inherently racist or evil."

While the order states a commitment to "continue fostering environments devoid of hostility grounded in race, sex, and other federally protected characteristics," it also generalizes such diversity and inclusion programs as "anti-American" and more broadly racist and sexist against white men. Any federal agency, contractor, or institution receiving federal funding could lose their grants if such programs are not halted, NPR reports — including the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), a provider of international aid, that must now ensure that organizations they fund will comply with President Trump's order.

In response to the Order, AIDS Foundation Chicago hosted a two-day virtual conference, "Positive Change II: Dismantling Racism in the HIV Workplace." The virtual conference focused on racism and white supremacy in HIV and public health industries and workplace, equipping leaders in public health with tools to battle racism, a critical factor in ending HIV, especially as it disproportionately impacts Black communities.

Experts educated and engaged conference participants on how leaders, communities, and organizations perpetuate structural systems of racism and white supremacy. The conference proposed strategies that assist in developing and sustaining a culture of race equity, dealing with HIV and the COVID-19 pandemic, with the ultimate goal of ending the HIV epidemic in Illinois by 2030.