A diversity training session for the Army turned into a lecture on “white privilege” Thursday.
The Equal Opportunity briefing, which was presented to approximately 400 soldiers in the 67th Signal Battalion in Fort Gordon, Ga., garnered attention after a photograph of a PowerPoint slide of the presentation was posted on Facebook.
The slide, titled, “the luxury of obliviousness,” states, “[R]ace privilege gives whites little reason to pay a lot of attention to African Americans or to how white privilege affects them.” It adds, quoting, “To be white in American [sic] means not having to think about it.”
The quote appears to be from James Baldwin, as referenced in sociologist Allan G. Johnson’s book, “Privilege, Power, and Difference.” The popular book teaches readers how to examine the implications of their privilege.
Cpt. Lindsay Roman, a spokesperson for the Army, told USA Today the presentation material was not authorized and not part of the standard presentation. The Equal Opportunity instructor, instead, chose to incorporate the topic of white privilege into the presentation.
On Facebook, people expressed outrage over the inclusion of the topic of white privilege. Some individuals even joked that they would file an Equal Opportunity complaint against the Equal Opportunity course, pointing out hypocrisy of singling out white people.
As a result of this situation, Roman said, “To prevent further instances, all unit instructors will receive additional training on the importance of following Army EO training requirements.”
This is not the first time a discussion of white privilege has made its way into Equal Opportunity material. The Equal Opportunity Advisor Student Guide, which was used to train Equal Opportunity instructors during a 3-month course at Patrick Air Force Base, also explicitly discussed the topic of white privilege. The manual was provided through the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute, which is affiliated with the Department of Defense.
According to USA Today, Army officials are currently investigating the matter at Fort Gordon.