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PMA Statement on OMB Memo on Race Training in the Federal Government

September 9, 2020

Washington, D.C. –President Chad Hooper of the Professional Managers Association (PMA) - formed in 1981 by IRS Managers as a national membership association representing the interests of professional managers, management officials and non-bargaining unit employees in the federal government- released the following statement regarding Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Memo M-20-34 on Training in the Federal Government:

“The memo from OMB calling upon agencies to cancel and/or divert federal funds from anti-racism training at a time when our nation’s people are yearning for more open and honest conversations about race is tone deaf at best and disgraceful at worst. The memo is written with no reference or regard for the reason anti-racism training exists- to ensure equal treatment and equal opportunity for historical marginalized groups in the federal workforce. Instead, the memo focuses entirely a select group of employees who clearly misunderstood the intention and messages behind these trainings,” Hooper explained.

“If anything, the viewpoint communicated to OMB that the trainings conclude that ‘virtually all white people contribute to racism’ and suggests all white individuals are required to certify that they ‘benefit from racism’ conveys an inherent misunderstanding in the purpose of the trainings, which is to highlight how those inequalities exist and impact our lives in an unconscious manner. Furthermore, acknowledging white privilege does not mean that white people are inherently racist, it means that they have not been subject to the same racial discrimination as black and brown Americans. Acknowledging differences should not be divisive,” Hooper continued. “The response to these trainings indicates better trainings are necessary to more effectively communicate the ways in which unconscious bias plays into our society. Any logical individual concerned with racial equality would view this as an opportunity to increase positive communication on race and ensure the best, most effective trainings are used. Not cancel the trainings in their entirety.”

“Let me be clear, unconscious racial biases do impact our society and do impact our federal workforce. These are not anti-white assumptions; they are psychological facts based on decades of research. This memo presents no research to indicate those facts are false. It relies only on the testimony of a few employees whose feelings were hurt by these realities,” Hooper explained. “It is with a heavy heart that I must admit PMA has had to expel members in the last several months due to blatantly racist messages communicated over government email. Racism is a problem among people in our country and passivity is not an appropriate response to discrimination.”

“Additionally, the current training systems remain inadequate. PMA and other groups representing federal employees have consistently advocated for more, not less, training on how to address inequalities and discrimination within the federal workforce. Black and brown voices remain under represented in federal leadership roles,” Hooper continued. “This directly impacts how our workforce serves taxpayers. For example, in recent years PMA learned that, despite mandates in law and the reality that over 67 million American have a primary language other than English in their home, the IRS was neglecting to provide multi-lingual support to domestic taxpayers. Instead, the IRS was engaging in civil rights settlements to these individuals. While it was likely no single ‘racist’ individual’s decision to fail to provide non-English speaking Americans with taxpayer assistance services, an unconscious bias toward English speakers and a lack of diverse voices at decision making tables allows these inequities to exist. Adequate and appropriate training is our first line of defense in rectifying these errors.”

“Our nation is the land of opportunity; however, it is also a nation that in our founding documents labeled individuals as 3/5 of a full human due to the color of their skin. Even following the end of slavery, our nation spent nearly 100 shameful years continuing to segregate individuals based on race. By simple math, that means our nation has spent more time treating racial groups unequally than equally. To say that these facts do not have lingering consequences is a mistake and a lie. Denying the role of racism in our country is a denial of our country’s history. It is un-American to not want better for all our nation’s people and the workforce that serves them,” Hooper concluded.

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