The National Association of Community Health Centers strongly disagrees with the White House’s September 22nd Executive Order, which prohibits the federal government and federal grantees from trainings that address systemic racism and bias in the workplace. The EO even goes further to ban the use of such terms in training materials, such as “critical race theory,” “white privilege,” “intersectionality and “unconscious bias”.
Community Health Centers sprang into existence nearly 60 years ago as part of the Civil Rights Movement – and this pandemic has revealed what we have known since their inception: communities of color, as well as lower income communities, have marked differences in health access and health status in virtually every measure. As healers, America’s health centers have long understood that racism, even in its most subtle forms, will continue to plague our communities and produce health disparities that include higher maternal and infant mortality rates, cancer, depression, diabetes and trauma. Our mission — to reach beyond the exam room and address the basic inhumanities a person may suffer in their community, workplace, or home — begins with recognizing inequity wherever it may exist.
Among the most insidious of the many social determinants of health are racism, discrimination, and even unconscious bias. And silence on practices such as these is akin to complicity and cooperation in their execution. Further, it is our belief that attempting to ignore or even erase these concepts and prevent the exploration of such multi-faceted issues by denying their usage in robust, open, and honest dialogue would seem to not only violate the spirit of our Constitution — but also do little to encourage the very “diversity and inclusion efforts consistent with principles of fair and equal treatment” that the Administration purports to be striving for.
The concepts and terms being prohibited are not, as the EO asserts, “divisive concepts” that threaten the core institutions of our country. We deny the assertion that discussion of these and similar ideas will “sow division among the workforce by attempting to prescribe and impose upon employees a conformity of belief in ideologies that label entire groups of Americans as inherently racist or evil.” We deny this assertion not only because we hold true to such other historically controversial concepts as frank discussion, respectful disagreement, diversity of opinion, and freedom of speech – but also because we believe in confronting the societal factors that result in disparities and view the full understanding of the complexity of our current society as integral to the strength and success of our nation’s future. For, as Justice Robert H. Jackson once wrote, “Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard.” And, as we believe history has demonstrated time and again — where there is diversity, there is strength.
We, the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), hereby reaffirm our commitment to equity and the protection of all people from discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religious practice, or national origin. And we call upon the Administration to cease implementation of this misguided policy and its threat to free speech and open discussion.