Taxpayers shouldn’t be funding the State Department’s DEI pseudoscience

The federal government increasingly looks like an Ivy League classroom, combining therapy for fragile souls with indoctrination into specious ideology. Nowhere is this more apparent than at the State Department, in which employees are encouraged to take courses in the name of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, or DEIA, that stress their differences, trauma, and status on the victim-oppressor continuum. 

As reported in the Daily Wire, the department spent a whopping $77 million on DEIA programs last year for its staffing shop, the Bureau of Global Talent Management. Just this past month, the State Department offered a training session on “Unveiling the Hidden Wounds: Exploring Racial Trauma and Minority Stress.” It promised a “space for empathy” where “voices are heard, wounds are acknowledged, and action is taken towards justice and equity.”

Then there was also “A Conversation on Racial Equity and Social Justice” with Bryan Stevenson, who pulled in $55,000 in donations per minute for a single TED talk.  

Employees could also take the half-day course “Intersectional Gender Analysis Training,” which “explores how gender and systems of power shape an individual’s lived experience.” Alternatively, they could attend the “Embrace Equity and Inspire Change” seminar or a series of female empowerment sessions such as “Elevating Women in Technology and Beyond.” 

Anticipating resistance, the State Department offered the course “Understanding Backlash to DEIA and How to Address It,” in which Dr. Kimberly Rios claimed to “highlight evidence demonstrating that DEIA initiatives can challenge the power, values, status, belonging, and cultural identity of dominant group members, particularly White Americans whose racial identity is important to their sense of self.” Rios will do this, the announcement said with unwitting irony, “to promote intergroup harmony.” 

Government employees are required to take a variety of training courses to advance in their careers. Even five years ago, most of these were about doing your job better — courses on leadership, management, and other skills. But in the “woke” era, employees are also subjected to ideological sessions such as those mentioned above. 

Given what all these courses and speakers cost taxpayers to provide, is there any evidence that they are based on sound information or that they improve the workforce? 

Let’s examine one offering more closely. 

The State Department runs a DEIA Distinguished Scholar Speaker Series that “highlights cutting-edge scientific research,” under which they recently brought Yale professor John Dovidio to give a talk titled “Racism Among the Well-Intentioned — Challenges and Solutions.”  

In a 2013 speech, Dovidio said, “About 80% of white Americans will say they are not sexist or they’re not racist … but work with the IAT will show that 60% to 75% of the population are both racist and sexist at an implicit level.” 

So, what is this “IAT” that Dovidio cites? 

Harvard’s Implicit Association Test is a favorite tool of social scientists who want to prove that people are inherently racist and sexist. This is a necessary premise for critical race theory, which posits that nebulous concepts such as “structural bias” and “systems of oppression” can explain all variances in performance between racial groups rather than individual factors such as education, industry, and behavior. IAT offers the evidence the Left needs to support this theory.

But the IAT is not an accepted measure of bias. One of the IAT’s own inventors said, “I and my colleagues and collaborators do not call the IAT results a measure of implicit prejudice [or] implicit racism.” And in a 2015 review, Dr. Hart Blanton of Texas A&M wrote that “all of the meta-analyses converge on the conclusion that … IAT scores are not good predictors of ethnic or racial discrimination and explain, at most, small fractions of the variance in discriminatory behavior in controlled laboratory setting.” In a 2021 academic paper, Ulrich Schimmack came to the same conclusion, writing that “IATs are widely used without psychometric evidence of construct or predictive validity.” 

As far back as 2008, in an article for the American Psychological Association, Beth Azar wrote that people’s IAT scores “often change from one test to another.” German Lopez, writing for Vox, took the test two days apart and found that in the first, he “had a slight automatic preference for white people,” and in the second, “a slight automatic preference … in favor of black people.” Summing it up, Greg Mitchell of the University of Virginia said, “The IAT is not yet ready for prime time.”

That’s hardly a firm foundation for using taxpayer money to train federal staff in a worldview that will affect their careers and lives. And of course, all of the hours employees spend auto-flagellating with critical race theory is paid time they are not working on matters of national interest. 


One can’t put too much blame on race merchants such as Dovidio, Ibram X. Kendi, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Nikole Hannah-Jones for simply trying to sell their product. But the question is: Why is the government buying it with our money?  

Taxpayer-funded institutions should not pay for courses and speakers whose premises are contentious and whose efforts won’t measurably improve the workforce. Federal employees are free to explore social theory on their own time. On our dime, they should get on with their real job. 

Simon Hankinson is a senior research fellow in the Border Security and Immigration Center at the Heritage Foundation.

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