No Talk Tuesday*: Racially Hostile Environment For White Male Employees?

It’s at the complaint stage, so that the allegations have yet to be proven. But if true, they raise a question that few would have anticipated would ever be asked. Joshua Diemert works for the City of Seattle as a “program intake representative,” which means his job was to “connect city residents with public resources.” He held the position for nine years until he could take no more. The reason was that he had become the enemy and he could no longer suffer the hostile working environment. The reason, he contends, was because he was a white man.

“The city of Seattle believes that race representation is paramount, and they believe that people should not be judged by their individuality or their individual actions, but should be judged by their collective race,” says Diemert. “In fact, they say that if you judge people by individuality, that was actually a tool of white supremacy used to oppress people of color.”

In most past cases involving a white person suing for discrimination, the claim was that they were denied a position, such as a place in medical school, because of race, being passed over in favor of someone else because of race. In general, these cases did not fare well, as long as race was not the determining factor and considered only as a proxy for diversity, which was acceptable as an educational benefit for students. The situation here is quite different.

It wasn’t that Deimert wasn’t a good employee, or wasn’t good at his job, or even that he didn’t play well with others. The problem was one beyond his control. He was white in an environment where white people were unwelcome.

The environment Diemert describes is almost too toxic and oppressive to be believed; in his account, Seattle’s RSJI program sounds like a conservative’s nightmare about a progressive workplace—something that would be brutally parodied on South Park or Portlandia. But his complaint is well-supported by hard evidence: actual copies of documents from the bizarre antiracism training that the city uses. Indeed, these documents can still be found on the city’s RSJI website.

As Robby Soave notes, the training was based on the work of “Tema Okun, a consultant who identifies perfectionism, timeliness, a sense of urgency, and writing things down as aspects of ‘white supremacy culture.’” Okun now claims this is a misunderstanding of her work, as if that changes anything.

“On multiple occasions in the trainings, I was forced to do things like play privilege bingo or stand up in front of everyone and rank myself within a racist continuum,” he says.

Privilege bingo Pacific Legal Foundation

Declining to participate was hardly an option: This was labeled “white silence,” a significant transgression. Opposing the agenda was even worse, of course.

“If I disagreed or offered another opinion, I was told I had cognitive dissonance, and my defensiveness was evidence of being a racist white supremacist,” he says.

While such trainings may be well intended, even if of dubious effectiveness in making the workplace more accommodating for minority employees whose concerns and sensitivities may not have been adequately considered in the past, has it gone too far? Is it unfair to flip the script and not make the white man the bad guy for having the misfortunate of possessing such privilege as being “not a redhead” or, you know, white and male.

One of the tenets of progressive ideology is that discrimination can only be suffered by the oppressed, and not the oppressor. In the scheme of identity politics, white people in general, and white men in particular, as oppressors. Does that preclude any claim on the part of a white man that the environment created in the name of ending discrimination for some authorizes a hostile work environment for others based solely on race? If so, what can employers do to make white employees more sensitive to the concerns of black and brown employees or women employees that won’t be perceived as an attack on white male employees?

*Tuesday Talk rules are suspended. Only comments that focus on the issue at hand, don’t launch into extremist propaganda, don’t make people stupider and don’t piss me off will be permitted. Because reasons.

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