A diversity expert who trains federal government workers claims he discourages racial stereotypes, yet in his program he contends white males wrongly view social-justice training as “white male bashing.”
Steve L. Robbins is the developer of a leader’s guide for a program titled “Inclusion Insights: Stereotypes, Lazy Brains & Unintentional Intolerance,” WND has discovered.
The guide suggests playing down or even avoiding the term “social justice” to reach uncooperative whites.
“For audiences that have difficulty understanding the social justice approach, we must have other approaches,” the guide says.
“Social justice approaches primarily emphasize race and gender, and most workshops are conducted with the purpose of understanding race, gender, equality, anti-harassment, affirmative action, etc. Social justice and ‘counting people’ became synonymous in some people’s minds,” it continues.
“Although the social justice approach works well for some it does not work well for many others. Many whites, specifically while males, perceived it as WMB (white male bashing).”
The discovery coincides with the release of the latest Annual Report on the Federal Work Force by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, which says the U.S. has not done enough to ensure workplace diversity.
“While the federal government continues to be a leader in workforce diversity, further progress is needed for it to become a model workplace for all employees,” according to Carlton Hadden, director of EEOC’s Office of Federal Operations.
“Agencies should pay particular attention to increasing diversity among the Senior Executive Service and at the highest grade levels, as well as enhancing recruitment and retention of people with targeted disabilities.”
Robbins, through his group S.L. Robbins & Associates, has received multiple no-bid sole-source contracts from the federal government, particularly through NASA, to provide “Power and Privilege: Race Workshops” and related training sessions and materials.
Robbins is a widely sought-after trainer and public speaker whose federal clients have included NASA, the IRS, Department of the Treasury, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, Department of Defense and the National Security Agency. Dozens of corporate clients – many of whom provide testimonials to the effectiveness of his work – likewise are identified on his website.
The Vietnam-born doctor says he “immigrated with his mother to the United States where they faced many challenges during a time when there was much anti-war and anti-Vietnamese sentiment.”
He succeeded, however, in “working through and rising out of the challenges of poverty, discrimination and the tough streets of Los Angeles.”
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, or GSFC, has awarded several noncompetitive contracts to the Robbins organization over the past several years. S.L. Robbins is “the only responsible source” for “diversity and inclusion” training, it claims in a procurement notice that WND located via routine database research.
“No other potential source that possesses the experience, skills, and knowledge necessary to successfully meet the Office of Human Capital Management (OHCM) requirements for this workshop [is] known to exist,” GSFC said in a separate 2012 contracting notice.
The goal of the services is to “examine issues of power, privilege, diversity, and inclusion and race and how they affect everyone, regardless of color, at Goddard.”
The workshops’ specific outcome for Goddard employees is to raise their awareness of – and make them more skillful at – “managing discrepancies” related to so-called racial privilege.
GSFC in 2009 again justified yet another sole-source contract awarded to Robbins, whose previous workshops had “effectively enabled participants, regardless of race, to examine and discuss the systemic nature of racial privilege and its impact on themselves and at Goddard.”
The monetary value of the contracts remains unclear. Despite the availability of several notices announcing the intended purchase of good and services from Robbins, only one award notice – listing an award value of $0 – was found in the database.
GSFC’s provision of the training largely stems from a 2002 decision and order issued by the EEOC regarding alleged discrimination against black employees.
Although NASA acknowledged no wrongdoing, after nearly a decade of litigation and mediation, it settled a class-action lawsuit that “124 current and former African American scientists and engineers of NASA Goddard” filed with the EEOC.
The workers claimed they were systematically bypassed for promotions. The class of employees received a combined $3.8 million in compensatory damages, including an automatic $100,000 payment to NASA scientist Walter Flournoy, who initiated the lawsuit.
The decision and order likewise required NASA to institute reforms in its promotion-review process.
Resolution of the protracted case complied with congressional preferences and paralleled previous cases “encouraging voluntary settlement of employment discrimination claims,” EEOC noted.
EEOC similarly had encouraged the class to accept the settlement, pointing out that the allegedly aggrieved employees had no guarantee of winning if they instead opted for a trial.
Despite GSFC’s justification that S.L. Robbins was the only contractor capable of providing diversity training, some exceptions were found in the federal business opportunities database.
Judith MacBrine’s Mirror Group and Cook Ross, Inc. consultancies in California and Maryland, respectively, received a joint contract in 2011 potentially worth $500,000 to separately administer GSFC’s Power and Privilege series of workshops.
Mirror Group was hired to lead the Disability and Generations portions of the workshops, while Cook Ross handled the Gender and Sexual Orientation segments.
MacBrine, who also leads a San Francisco Bay Area group of organization and relationship coaches, had a multi-decade management career with the California Department of Transportation before launching her consulting group, which secured its first major contract with GSFC.
Cook Ross provides diversity training and publishes books such as “Reinventing Diversity” and “Unconscious Bias Workbook.”
GSFC recently requested competitive bids from consultants to assist its in-house Diversity & Civility Creative Learning Group.
According to the project Statement of Work, the purpose of the group is to explore “how to consistently and consciously be more aware of words and deeds, for the betterment of all.”
The group’s charter says of its members: “We are bold connectors and welcome people from all over the world to work with us in our pursuit of knowledge.
“We create an environment that uses everyone’s talents and expertise to do the best research to benefit the residents of Earth.”
The contractor will help it select diversity-themed movies and plan meetings.