The president often makes the unfounded assertion that he has done more for Black Americans than any president other perhaps than Abraham Lincoln. He cites his support for funding for historically Black colleges and universities, his signature on legislation overhauling criminal justice sentencing and an unemployment rate for Black people that dropped to record lows on his watch, continuing a trend that had begun under his predecessor, until it rose again with the pandemic-related economic slowdown.
But analysts said the convention had been aimed at making it easier for white voters uncomfortable with Mr. Trump’s history on race to support him and that it might have appealed to nonwhite voters who bristle at the so-called cancel culture that has become a favorite target of the right.
Like other policies put forth with little advance notice, Mr. Trump’s focus on diversity training seems to have originated with something he saw on Fox News. On Tuesday night, Tucker Carlson interviewed Christopher F. Rufo, a conservative scholar at the Discovery Institute who criticized what he called the “cult indoctrination” of “critical race theory” programs in the government.
“It’s absolutely astonishing how critical race theory has pervaded every institution in the federal government, and what I’ve discovered is that critical race theory has become in essence the default ideology of the federal bureaucracy and is now being weaponized against the American people,” Mr. Rufo said on the program.
On his website, Mr. Rufo identified six agencies that had conducted training sessions that he said asserted that America is inherently racist and promoted concepts like unconscious bias, white privilege and white fragility. At the Treasury Department, for instance, he said employees had been told that “virtually all white people contribute to racism” and that white staff members should “struggle to own their racism.”
Mr. Trump’s memo on Friday adopted much of this language, attributing it to “press reports.” The memo, signed by Russell T. Vought, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, said “this divisive, false, and demeaning propaganda of the critical race theory movement is contrary to all we stand for as Americans and should have no place in the Federal government.”
Mr. Trump wrote or reposted roughly 20 Twitter messages about the memo on Saturday and on Sunday said the Education Department would investigate schools that use curriculum from the 1619 Project by The New York Times Magazine, an effort to look at American history through the frame of slavery’s consequences and the contributions of Black Americans.