January 8, 2021
Vermont Law School students Karla Barron MARJ’21 and Caleb Sabatka MARJ’21 recently combined forces to submit public comments to the Department of Labor opposing a controversial executive order signed by President Trump.
Issued on Sept. 22, 2020, Executive Order 13950 purports to combat “race or sex stereotyping in the Federal workforce or in the Uniformed Services” by preventing federal contractors from conducting workplace training that the order claims teaches, among other things, “that men and members of certain races are inherently sexist and racist.”
But according to Barron and Sabatka, 13950 intentionally implies that real American history should be ignored and encourages maintaining the status quo of discrimination against those it was specifically designed to continue to oppress.
In their comments they wrote:
Executive Order 13950 promotes divisive and harmful rhetoric of racist practices in order to preserve white fragility by making claims to anti-white racism and misandrist sexism to discredit contemporary works of social scientific scholarship which are used in anti-discrimination trainings ... To not acknowledge the factual historical contexts of what this country was founded on and continues to perpetuate, by the creators and generational holders, continues to discredit the experiences of historically marginalized, oppressed peoples. Communities who have since been at the forefront of structural and institutionalized genocide, from colonization to mass incarceration. The principles of the Constitution do not correlate with the communities it explicitly promotes to serve thorough "equality and justice for all." It does the opposite.
Barron and Sabatka were motivated to submit comments opposing Executive Order 13950 in part after being tasked by Professor Matthew Bernstein in their Legislations and Regulations class with an assignment to engage their writing skills with the power of effective change.
But beyond a class assignment, the president’s order, and the need to stand against it, was personal for both students.
“It also stems from a passion I have developed over the last few years on how to engage and implement [Diversity, Equity and Inclusion] into both my personal and professional life,” says Barron. “It was very upsetting that our top ‘leader’ would pose such a divisive concept.”
Sabatka says that as a student of the social sciences, he felt the need to refute the president’s claims that antiracism, antisexism, and critical race theory promote scapegoating of white men.
“This order is a prime example of how the law can be used to erase the history of marginalized groups and hinder efforts to seek true equality that embraces and acknowledges history instead of denying it in the name of colorblindness,” he said.