Racial segregation in the United States ended with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but has recently made a resurgence in an unlikely environment: government agencies in Seattle, Washington. According to new whistleblower documents, at least three public agencies in the Seattle region have implemented race-segregated training sessions, which teach employees, in the words of one training manual, to “accept responsibility for their own racism” and “question the White power structure.”
At the King County Library System, a private consulting firm called Racial Equity Consultants recently held racially-segregated “listening sessions” as part of the library’s ongoing racial justice programs. The consultants “begin with an anti-oppression framework” and use segregated sessions in order to root out “institutional privileges and systemic inequities embedded in the current socio-political conditions that influence and affect our institutions.” The consultants discovered widespread “institutional racism” in the library system—and dismissed employees who reported “not experiencing or witnessing racism while working at KCLS” as likely suffering from the false consciousness of “internalized racism.” When reached by e-mail, Racial Equity Consultants said it was not authorized to comment.
At the Veterans Administration Puget Sound facility, the local leadership has launched a series of racially-segregated “caucuses” for “individuals who identify as white,” “individuals who identity as African American or Black,” and “individuals who identity as people of color.” According to whistleblower emails, the organizer of the sessions, Dr. Jesse Markman, initially “felt uncomfortable suggesting, as a white person, what [he] perceived, at the time, to be segregation.” However, after consultation with outside diversity trainers, Markman decided to move forward with the racially-segregated sessions, calling them “an environment for sharing and discussion, which is not afforded by mixed groups.” When contacted by e-mail, Dr. Markman referred the inquiry to the VA’s Public Affairs Office, which did not provide comment.
Finally, at the King County Prosecutor’s Office, Prosecutor Dan Satterberg and senior staff have recently required employees to sign a “equity and social justice” pledge and assigned “continued training for white employees,” who must “do the work” to “learn the true history of racism in our country.” As part of the new initiative, white employees are encouraged to participate in racially-designated “white antiracist action groups,” as well as agency-wide “cultural competency” training that teaches them to how to “accept responsibility for their own racism, sexism, [and] hetereosexism.” According to leaked emails, Satterberg recently wrote a letter to staff declaring that the “privileged white male cohort” in his office should “shut up and listen to the truths of those impacted by racism,” then commit to the program of “antiracism.” The prosecutor’s office confirmed the authenticity of the equity pledge and staff-wide memo, but Prosecutor Satterberg did not offer comment.
The irony is cutting: Seattle’s white elites are instituting a policy of racial segregation in the name of social justice. In all three of these institutions, white executives have explicitly implemented these policies, arguing that holding segregated training sessions “mitigate[s] any potential harming of Staff of Color that might arise from a cross-racial conversation.” As Dr. Markman wrote to his colleagues at the Veterans Administration: “It can be challenging for people of color to feel a burden to educate others on how to be better, when at the same time being told or expected to be entirely open and unfiltered.”
The underlying assumption at these institutions—that white leaders must shield minority employees from open dialogue—is deeply patronizing and can cause racial division in the workplace. According to multiple sources within King County government, segregated training sessions have created new suspicion and distrust among colleagues. “I was truly disgusted,” said one library employee. “[The trainers told white employees] we stole the land from indigenous people [and] we are responsible for committing genocide.” Another employee at the prosecutor’soffice described a recent diversity session as a “firing squad,” and fears that any dissent would lead to immediate retaliation.
Progressives now find themselves through the looking glass on racial segregation. As U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner Peter Kirsanow has argued, these racially-separated training sessions are likely in violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employers from segregating employees based on “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” The Department of Justice is already investigating the City of Seattle’s segregated diversity trainings and should expand its investigation to include the King County Library System, the King County Prosecutor’s Office, and the Veterans Administration Puget Sound Health Care System. Segregation in the name of social justice is still segregation—and has no place in our public institutions.
Seattle, which is home to the authors of White Fragility and Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, has long been on the vanguard of race-based progressivism. These theoretical concepts, however, have escaped from the academy and have begun to entrench themselves in the bureaucracy. Federal officials would be wise to put a stop to them now—before they take root and re-normalize the shameful policies of race-based segregation.