National Nuclear Lab's Employees Sent to Seminar That Claimed 'Rugged Individualism' and 'Hard Work' Are 'White Male Culture'

The seminar for Sandia Labs executives also involved writing apology letters to marginalized people.


The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. found itself in a small scandal last month after visitors to its website discovered an infographic that listed "hard work" and "rational thought" as traits of white culture. The crude stereotypes drew well-deserved derision.

It's not just the museum. Last year, Sandia National Laboratories, a federal contractor responsible for building the U.S.'s nuclear weapons, sent its executives to mandatory diversity training with the White Men's Caucus on Eliminating Racism, Sexism, and Homophobia in Organizations. This group's educational materials—which were obtained by Christopher Rufo, a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation—include many of the same racial stereotypes. As Rufo writes, participants were told that the "roots of white male culture"

consists of "rugged individualism," "a can-do attitude," "hard work," and "striving towards success"—which sound good, but are in fact "devastating" to women and POCs.

In fact, the trainers claim that "white male culture" leads to "lowered quality of life at work and home, reduced life expectancy, unproductive relationships, and high stress." It also forces this "white male standard" on women and minorities.

The seminar also asked white males to recite a series of "white privilege statements" and "male privilege statements." It concluded with its white male participants writing letters of apology to marginalized people whom they may have harmed, according to Rufo, who made the documents available on his website.

A spokesperson for Sandia Labs tells Reason that inclusion and diversity are "defining elements" of its culture, which "welcomes multiple perspectives, promotes different working styles and leads to the innovation in science, engineering and technology for which we are known." Sandia would not specifically confirm that the seminar took place, though Rufo's documents include a list of participants and discussion leaders (with their actual identities redacted).

Rufo wants to "we must pass legislation to 'abolish critical race theory' in the federal government." (Strictly speaking, Sandia Labs is not a branch of the federal government—though it does have a .gov website, and draws most of its funding from government grants.) Personally, I'm not keen to involve the White House or to launch a congressional investigation into such a trivial matter. (Sorry, Sen. Hawley!) That said, these sorts of training sessions are indeed a waste of time and money: Modules designed to identify and reduce bias are frequently shown to be flawed, resting on poorly tested and unscientific ideas and research.

It would be encouraging if all the negative attention currently being paid to these trainings resulted in less work for diversity consultants. In any case, let's hope the people responsible for the nuclear arsenal were not persuaded that hard work and rational thought are bad things.