Trump Called Racial Sensitivity Trainings ‘Racist’ and ‘Radical.’ Here’s What Actually Happens in Them.

At Tuesday night's debate in Cleveland, Ohio, President Trump lied about the nature of sensitivity training and refused to condemn white supremacist groups.

(AP Photo/Morry Gash, Pool)

By Sarah Amy Harvard

September 29, 2020

While refusing to condemn white supremacists and right-wing militias at Tuesday night’s debate, President Trump misled the American public on what sensitivity training actually is.

President Donald Trump doubled down on his criticism of racial sensitivity training in the United States, labeling it as “racist” and “radical” during the first presidential debate of the 2020 election.

In early September, the Trump administration implemented a ban on all racial sensitivity training for contractors working with the federal government. The president called trainings that discuss white privilege and critical race theory “divisive, anti-American propaganda.” On Tuesday night, moderator Chris Wallace asked why Trump put an end to racial sensitivity training and if he believes systemic racism exists in the country. 

“I did it because it was racist,” the president said in the debate hosted by Fox News. “It was radical. They were teaching people to hate our country.”

Trump went on to claim that sensitivity trainings spread “sick ideas.” 

“We were paying people hundreds of thousands of dollars to teach very bad ideas and frankly very sick ideas.”

Sensitivity training is often offered by agencies, organizations, educational institutions, and employers to help its members better understand and appreciate the diversity of their teams. Most trainings address gender, race, and cultural sensitivity, as well as sensitivity toward people who live with disabilities.

These trainings typically take form in a workshop, where people participate in group games, exercises, and discussions. Some prompts brought into the discussions might include “share a time when you felt like you were in the minority” or “describe a time when you witnessed discrimination.” Some games and exercises can be as easy as playing Mr. Potato Head or roleplaying.

Sensitivity training essentially comes down to teaching participants how to see the world through another person’s perspective effectively and help people find more compassion and relatability to others who are different from them. To put it even more simply, these training teach participants the Golden Rule—how to truly treat people the way they want to be treated.

In addition to undercutting sensitivity training during Tuesday night’s debate, Trump also refused to condemn white supremacy or acknowledge its threat to safety in the United States.

When asked by Wallace whether he would condemn militias and white supremacist groups, Trump continued his false claim that left-wing groups were creating violence. “I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing, not the right wing,” Trump responded. The president also appeared to call out to the Proud Boys (a right-wing white supremacist group): “Proud boys … stand back and standby.”

READ MORE: This Is What’s ‘Un-American’: Not Recognizing the Stark Realities of Being Black in the US


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