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Guest Opinion: Mr. President: 'We dissent'

by Maureen Bogue and David Eugene Perry

BuildOUT founders Maureen Bogue and David Eugene Perry. Photos: Courtesy David Eugene Perry
BuildOUT founders Maureen Bogue and David Eugene Perry. Photos: Courtesy David Eugene Perry  

On September 22, our nation took a giant step backward. Claiming that "Americans should be taught to take pride in our great country, and if you don't, there's nothing in it for you," the president of the United States issued an executive order to ban training on implicit bias and most aspects of diversity for any company receiving federal grants or contracts. With one stroke of his executive pen, President Donald Trump is attempting to erase decades of hard-won freedoms. In order to "form a more perfect union" for our future, we must engage in a critical assessment of the past.

This executive order requires that any company seeking to benefit from a government contract must pretend that systemic bias does not exist. To do so requires one to ignore America's history — of taking land from native peoples, enslaving African Americans, subjecting women to unequal treatment, permitting hate crimes against members of the LGBTQ community, enacting the Chinese Exclusion Act, forcing the internment of Japanese Americans, denying Jews entry to the U.S. during WWII, and the daily indignities suffered by anyone who is not straight, white, privileged, and male.

To ignore the cruel and unjust periods of American history denies us the opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of those who fought against those injustices and triumphed. How can Americans celebrate the accomplishments of Thurgood Marshall, Harvey Milk, Susan B. Anthony, C├ęsar Chavez, Jackie Robinson, Megan Rapinoe, or Serena Williams without understanding the historical and systemic injustices they overcame? It is only by studying our past — the good and the bad — that we can identify our own biases and work together to create an equal and just society.

Over the years, corporate America has shifted its perspective on LGBTQ+ rights, with many companies making public gestures of support. Two hundred and six major corporations signed an amicus brief in the spring advocating ahead of the Supreme Court's June decision protecting LGBTQ+ individuals from workplace discrimination. Companies are also increasingly making business-critical decisions about recruitment practices, employee resource groups, and marketing that embrace LGBTQ+ rights. On September 30, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Assembly Bill 979 to diversify boards of publicly held corporations headquartered in the state. All of this, and more, signals that the United States' business community is further ahead of the curve on LGBTQ+ rights than Trump.

In response to the news, Erin Uritus, the CEO of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, said in a statement that the executive order is "gaslighting enshrined in policy. This act is the real-life progeny of Orwell's thought police. It cannot stand unchallenged. It is fundamentally un-American and it is dangerous. Our values prioritize dialogue over censorship."

We agree: BuildOUT California calls upon all elected officials to take immediate and swift action to right the wrongs inflicted by this executive order. We urge all business owners to embrace diversity. And we ask all Americans to stand with us as we say: "Mr. President, we dissent."

BuildOUT California is the world's first LGBTQ industry association dedicated to the sustainable growth of LGBTQ-owned and-certified businesses, and our allies, in the fields of architecture, engineering, construction services, real estate development, and related industries.

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