The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is coming under fire for hosting a “compulsory”* ”Cultural Sensitivity Training” program that required some intriguing participation of those in attendance. In addition to being implored to bang on tables, everyone in the room was instructed to chant, in unison, “The pilgrims were illegal aliens.”
But that’s not the full extent of the curious elements surrounding the session, as the lead trainer also joked that he doesn’t like the word “minorities” and that he prefers to replace it with “emerging majorities.”
After nine months of waiting for the government to release the video content, clips of the three-hour session were published this week by Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group. It was on May 18, 2012, that the organization first made a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to secure the footage.
Judicial Watch was originally tipped off by a whistle-blower who offered information about the expensive diversity sessions (the USDA has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for the program). Here’s how the organization describes the resulting controversy:
The sensitivity training sessions, described as “a huge expense” by diversity awareness trainer and self-described “citizen of the world” Samuel Betances, were held on USDA premises. The diversity event is apparently part of what USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack described in a memo sent to all agency employees as a “new era of Civil Rights” and “a broader effort towards cultural transformation at USDA.” In 2011 and 2012, the USDA paid Betances and his firm nearly $200,000 for their part in the “cultural transformation” program.
USDA Training Administrator, Vincent Loran, in an October 10, 2011, email previously revealed by Judicial Watch, asked Betances for a copy of a training video vowing to keep it secret. “It will not be used for or show [sic] in any way shape or form,” Loran promised. Nevertheless, Judicial Watch was able to obtain the video.
While it has taken quite some time to secure the footage, this story was first presented to the public in Oct. 2012. At the time, Judicial Watch didn’t yet have footage, but was relying upon documents surrounding the trainings to make determinations about the program.
The organization charged that at least one of the sessions (the one caught on video) reinforced political ideas and even seemed to validate illegal immigration, however a USDA official denied these claims. Additionally, the notion that participants were told to chant was also rebuffed.
“Participants did not chant during these workshops,” said an official at the time, according to Fox News. “In one portion of the session, the presenter had participants repeat provocative and potentially offensive phrases as part of an exercise to examine stereotypes. The statements were not reflective of USDA or its policy.”
However, in one of the clips released by Judicial Watch, it appears as though the audience is, indeed, asked to chant that the “pilgrims were illegal aliens” (and they comply).
“I want you to say that American was founded by outsiders – say that – who are today’s insiders, who are very nervous about today’s outsiders,” he said. “I want you to say, ‘The pilgrims were illegal aliens.’ Say, ‘The pilgrims never gave their passports to the Indians.’”
Watch this all unfold, below:
And at another point in the training, Betances jokes with the audience that he prefers to replace the word “minorities” with “emerging majorities.” Some outlets seem to allege that this was uttered in an effort to encourage others to adopt the rhetoric, but upon examining the video, it’s clear he was being humorous:
TheBlaze spoke with Jill Farrell, Judicial Watch’s director of public affairs, to learn more about the program. She said that it appears as though the agreement between Betances’ firm and the USDA may still be ongoing.
To see the controversial session in its entirety, watch below:
Certainly some would argue that there is inherent value in cultural sensitivity training, but critics would also point out — at least in this case — that the monumental cost as well as the controversial ideological constructs being presented raise eyebrows.