Arlington, VA — On September 22, 2020, the President of the United States issued an Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping. The Executive Order (EO), among other things, bans the use of terms such as “critical race theory,” “white privilege,” “intersectionality,” “systemic racism,” and “unconscious bias” in any training or materials used by institutions receiving federal funding of any kind.
The Alliance objects to the substance of this EO and is deeply concerned about the impact on the museum community, and the message it sends about addressing systemic racism in American life. Fostering diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion in the museum field is a core tenet of AAM’s work. We know our field has a long way to go in addressing systemic racism and building racial equity. However, at a time when the United States is engaged in a national reckoning, this EO threatens to undo any real progress toward achieving greater racial equity in our country.
AAM sees this EO as an affront to our core values, a rejection and denial of our country’s history, and an unacceptable step backward for racial equity. The EO flies in the face of decades of research and scholarship on racism in the United States and will foster discord and distrust; deny the lived experiences of Black, Native, and other people of color; and interfere with basic First Amendment rights. As one of the most trustworthy sources of information to the public, museums are committed to presenting diverse and inclusive stories of the past from multiple perspectives, in all their complexity. To do this effectively, free expression and diversity and inclusion education is necessary for museum professionals and vital to the future viability, relevance, and sustainability of the museum field. This EO creates fear and uncertainty in institutions at a time when leaders are in financial distress and cannot afford to pause on equity training or risk losing much needed federal funding.
We must recommit to advancing racial and gender equity now. If you experience any canceled or renegotiated contracts that use language from the EO please share any information with us through this form. Below you will find an FAQ and additional resources. We will continue to monitor the impact of the EO and keep you updated as new information arises.
FAQ on Executive Order 13950
This FAQ does not serve as legal advice. We encourage you to seek legal counsel when assessing the impacts of Executive Order 13950 on your organization. Many thanks to the organizations listed in the additional resources below from which much of the following FAQ information is cited.
How is AAM responding to the Executive Order (EO)?
AAM has issued a statement expressing concern about the EO and the need for ongoing diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion training at this time in our country’s history. We are continuing to monitor developments to assess the potential impact on our members and our field and are working with the National Council of Nonprofits, Independent Sector, and a broad range of nonprofit organizations to oppose the EO.
Is AAM going to reduce its support for member institutions in their efforts to provide effective diversity and inclusion training?
No. AAM is going to continue and increase its support for museums in their efforts to provide effective diversity and inclusion training--by sharing resources and learnings from the Facing Change initiative; incorporating measures of museums’ diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion into our Excellence programs; continuing to publish articles, resources, and discussions around “Racism, Unrest, and the Role of Museums;” and urging museum leaders to center equity in this time of crises. More education, not less, is needed if we are going to achieve greater equity in museums and the communities they serve.
Who does this EO apply to?
The EO applies to federal departments/agencies, the military, federal contractors, federal grant recipients, and potentially all employers in the country.
For contractors, the EO dictates that “every Government contract” signed after November 21, 2020 (60 days after the EO’s issuance) must adhere to the provisions included in the EO.
November 21 is the deadline for federal agencies to report to the Office of Management and Budget all grant “programs for which the agency may, as a condition of receiving such a grant, require the recipient to certify that it will not use Federal funds to promote the concepts.”
For nonprofits with government grants, agency heads have until November 21 to identify grant programs that may need to have the restrictions inserted into future grants after that time. But even then, you’ll still be able to use non-federal funds to deliver such training. Be on the lookout for any announcements from your granting agencies and please inform us if you receive any such announcements.
For more detailed information on how the EO may impact you or your museum, please visit the additional resources listed below.
Does the EO itself immediately change the terms and conditions of federal grants and federal contracts?
No. By itself, existing terms and conditions of federal grants and contracts remain as they are today. The executive order calls on federal agencies to make changes to grant and contract requirements in the future.
How does the executive order deal with academic environments?
The executive order says that it does not cover discussions about the enumerated “divisive concepts” if they are part of a “larger course of academic instruction” and presented in an “objective manner and without endorsement.” You should consult with your institution’s legal counsel as to whether this exception applies to your program.
What is the timing for implementation by affected institutions?
Federal grantees will be subject to the prohibitions once their grants are amended or when they are awarded new grants that include the prohibitions. Federal grant-making agencies have 60 days to provide a list of affected grant programs to the OMB, so it is likely several months before any change would be implemented for a federal grantee.
Federal contractors may be requested to provide information about their diversity training programs when OFCCP publishes a notice in the Federal Register in the next 30 days. The executive order’s prohibitions apply only to new contracts issued no earlier than Nov. 23, 2020.
For federal agency employee training programs, the prohibitions take effect immediately.
What does OMB’s memorandum dated September 28, 2020 say about next steps?
M-20-37 mostly covers restrictions relating to diversity training provided to Federal agency employees. It also gives Federal grant awarding agencies until November 20, 2020, to provide OMB a list of agency-funded programs covered by the executive order.
What can I do to help fight the EO?
There is wide opposition to the Executive Order based on concerns for the constitutional rights of free speech and due process, and the importance and value of learning more about racial and gender equity. The Alliance is working with the National Council of Nonprofits, Independent Sector and a broad range of nonprofit organizations to oppose the EO.
If your organization issues a statement, then please share with us.
If you see any analyses, reports, or worthwhile news accounts, then please share with us.
You’re on the frontlines in the field and may see proposed changes to contract or grant language first, so if you start to see new language consistent with the intent of this EO appearing in federal contracts or grants, please let us know.
Is any legal action being considered to stop the EO?
We know of several litigation strategies already in development and will keep you apprised as they move forward. The parties most likely to challenge the EO in court include for-profit businesses, state attorneys general and local government groups, nonprofits, civil rights groups, health care providers, higher education, and others.
About the American Alliance of Museums
The American Alliance of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. Representing more than 35,000 individual museum professionals and volunteers, institutions, and corporate partners serving the museum field, the Alliance stands for the broad scope of the museum community. For more information, visit www.aam-us.org.
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