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Sen. Cotton demands Lockheed Martin explain diversity training that drove executives to allegedly call white men ‘racist,’ ‘KKK,’ ‘privileged’

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) Jan. 8, 2020. (Stefani Reynolds/CNP/Zuma Press/TNS)
June 03, 2021

Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton sent a letter to James Taiclet, President and CEO of Lockheed Martin Corporation, demanding information about a diversity training program for white male executives reportedly held last summer that drove attendees to label white men as “racist,” “privileged,” and “KKK.”

According to Cotton’s letter, based on a report by journalist Christopher Rufo, the three-day program was led by a group called “White Men As Full Diversity Partners,” and asserted that white people are taught to “minimize the perspectives and powers of people of other races,” as well as being less likely to die during police interactions.

“The section on ‘male privilege’ lists the stereotypes that men are ‘not expected to be overly attentive or to wait on people.’ Facilitators allegedly encouraged Lockheed executives to ‘free associate’ stereotypes about various groups,” Cotton’s letter stated. “The stereotypes allegedly generated by your executives include that white men are ‘racist,’ ‘privileged,’ ‘set in their ways,’ and ‘KKK.’”

“This training, if it occurred, appears to violate the principle of equal treatment that is the bedrock of American law, including civil-rights law,” the GOP senator continued. “Title VII of the Civil Rights Act in particular forbids employers from discriminating on the basis of race and engaging in any activities that ‘limit, segregate, or classify [their] employees.’ The previous administration observed that the kind of stereotyping and scapegoating commonly found in these trainings ‘may contribute to a hostile work environment and give rise to potential liability under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.’”

Cotton then listed the following questions, demanding answers:

1. Did this diversity training for Lockheed Martin executives take place as described?

2. How many Lockheed Martin employees have been subjected to this kind of training?

3. Did Lockheed Martin select employees to participate in this training? If yes, on what basis were they selected? Was this training given to employees who are not white men?

4.Was the training mandatory or voluntary? Were employees told they were allowed to opt out of the training?

5. Please list the vendors that Lockheed Martin employs to administer Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion trainings to its employees and the materials distributed to participants in those trainings.

6. If it occurred, please explain how this training, which relies on stereotypes and appears to segregate employees on the basis of race and sex, complies with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

According to Rufo, the team at White Men As Full Diversity Partners suggested that the training session will provide a benefit for white men if they embrace a philosophy of diversity and inclusion. One prompt reportedly given to the attendees asked, “What’s in it for white men?” The participants wrote various responses, including, “I won’t get replaced by someone who is a better full diversity partner,” “[I will] improve the brand, image, reputation of white men,” and “I [will] have less nagging sense of guilt that I am the problem.”

Rufo also notes that the firm outlines the “roots of white male culture” as consisting of traits like “rugged individualism,” “a can-do attitude,” “hard work,” “operating from principals,” and “striving towards success.” These traits are considered “devastating” to women and minorities, the group says, according to Rufo.

The Washington Post reported that Lockheed Martin is the largest defense contractor in the United States, receiving almost $38 billion in taxpayer funding from the United States government in 2018.