Army says diversity training sent wrong signal about 'white privilege'
By TOM VANDEN BROOK | USA Today (Tribune News Service) | Published: April 4, 2015
WASHINGTON — Army officials are investigating a diversity training briefing at Fort Gordon, Ga., in which a slide about "white privilege" was inappropriately shown to soldiers, according to an Army spokeswoman.
The Equal Opportunity briefing took place Thursday for about 400 soldiers of the 67th Signal Battalion, Capt. Lindsay Roman, an Army spokeswoman, said Friday. The slide titled "The Luxury of Obliviousness" has bullet-point items about "white privilege."
One item reads, "Race privilege gives whites little reason to pay a lot of attention to African Americans or to how white privilege affects them. 'To be white in America means not having to think about it.' "
An image of the slide appeared later Thursday on a Facebook page and generated a torrent of negative comments about political correctness run amok.
The presentation was not authorized, nor was it part of the standard slides shown to soldiers, Roman said.
"The unit (Equal Opportunity) instructor deviated from the authorized topic and content which was provided," Roman said. "To prevent further instances, all unit instructors will receive additional training on the importance of following Army EO training requirements."
The slide appears to have been adapted from work by Allan Johnson, a sociologist and author, according to Wayne Hall, an Army spokesman. Johnson, in an email, said the concept is consistent with his work. Although he noted that part of the quote should be attributed to author James Baldwin.
The Army, Roman said, is committed to offering all soldiers equal opportunity.
"The Army reflects the diversity of American society," she said. "We are all members of one team."
The Army has struggled with diversity in its ranks for decades. It is of particular concern among the service's top leadership. Last year, USA TODAY reported the command of the Army's main combat units had only a few black officers. Less than 10% of the active-duty Army's officers are black compared with 18% of its enlisted soldiers, according to the Army.
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