The federal agency entrusted with spearheading natural disaster response is grappling with a significant challenge—over 1,000 individuals are still missing following the destructive wildfires that wreaked havoc on Hawaii’s Maui island. Amidst this situation, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) has introduced a mandatory diversity training program spanning three hours for its workforce. This training, among other topics, discusses the presence of white supremacy deeply embedded within various systems and institutions across the United States.
Although the exact number of FEMA’s expansive workforce that participated in the training remains unclear, internal correspondences evaluated by the Free Beacon reveal that the agency’s “resilience” division was apprised of a requisite completion of one of three three-hour diversity training modules between August 1 and September 28. This division, known as “FEMA Resilience,” is dedicated to aiding communities nationwide in adapting, enduring, recovering, and prospering amid natural disasters. It boasts around 2,600 employees and is overseen by Victoria Salinas, an appointee of the Biden administration.
The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training content assert that the history of the United States is characterized by extreme violence and call for participants to acknowledge the existence of systemic racism and oppression. These assertions are supported by screenshots obtained from the training material by the Washington Free Beacon.
FEMA leadership communicated the training’s implementation to their staff via a July email, emphasizing that this endeavor reflects their continuous commitment to integrating equity within emergency management. According to the email, employees are obligated to complete at least one course to fulfill their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training requirement.
The email states that FEMA’s equity training program was “developed by the Institute for Diversity and Inclusion in Emergency Management.” The CEO of the institute, Chauncia Willis, revealed to the Free Beacon that she had previously delivered the training in a live format to FEMA employees several months ago. To facilitate wider accessibility, FEMA recorded Willis’s live presentation and subsequently utilized its internal “resilience equity adviser,” Christopher Smith, to facilitate discussion sessions among employees. A video of this training process was acquired by the Free Beacon.
The presentation delves into the concept of white supremacy, describing it as an ideology intricately woven into numerous systems and institutions across the United States. It also highlights the nation’s history of extreme violence during its establishment.
A spokesperson for FEMA clarified that the mentioned training is not universally mandated for all employees; however, FEMA Resilience employees can select from three options. The spokesperson also indicated that the agency mandates two distinct training sessions for all its employees: “Civil Rights and FEMA Disaster 2023” and “Including People with Disabilities and Others with Access and Functional Needs in Disaster Operations.”
FEMA has drawn criticism for a range of issues, including its response to the Hawaii wildfires and the luxurious accommodations it provided to its employees in high-end resorts. The administration of President Biden has also come under scrutiny for its handling of the disaster.
Instructor Chauncia Willis, known for her work in integrating equity into disaster policy, discusses the tendency of white supremacists to hide their views under the façade of “nice people” in her “Historical Perspectives of Emergency Management” course.
It is noteworthy that President Biden has faced scrutiny for his delayed response to the Maui wildfires, subsequently generating further attention due to his statements and actions surrounding the disaster.