The Volokh Conspiracy

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White Employee Suing Seattle for DEI-Based Racial Harassment, Retaliation, and Discrimination


Robby Soave here at Reason has an interesting story on this; you can see the Complaint and the attached exhibits here. Of course, keep in mind that this is just the plaintiff's side of the story (Soave reports that the City "did not respond to a request for comment," which is common in litigation). An excerpt:

In November 2022 [Diemert] filed suit, alleging that the city's racially hostile work environment harmed his mental and physical health…. His tormenters, he argues, were motivated by so-called antiracism training under the auspices of the city government's Racial and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI).

"The city of Seattle believes that race representation is paramount, and they believe that people should not be judged by their individuality or their individual actions, but should be judged by their collective race," says Diemert. "In fact, they say that if you judge people by individuality, that was actually a tool of white supremacy used to oppress people of color."

The environment Diemert describes is almost too toxic and oppressive to be believed; in his account, Seattle's RSJI program sounds like a conservative's nightmare about a progressive workplace—something that would be brutally parodied on South Parkor Portlandia. But his complaint is well-supported by hard evidence: actual copies of documents from the bizarre antiracism training that the city uses. Indeed, these documents can still be found on the city's RSJI website.

The training is based on the extremely controversial and much-criticized work of Tema Okun, a consultant who identifies perfectionism, timeliness, a sense of urgency, and writing things down as aspects of "white supremacy culture." (Okun is a white woman.) Okun has had a significant influence on the diversity and equity industry, and these ideas frequently come up in training materials for educational seminars. Similar work by the author Judith Katz—also a white woman—previously appeared on the website for the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Okun was recently interviewed by The Intercept's Ryan Grim, who has reported at length on the dysfunction within progressive organizations. She expressed profound misgivings about the weaponization of her work and asked Grim to publicize an updated version in which she qualifies many of her original claims.

"It became clear to me that quite a few people were misusing it," she said….

Click here to see the entire story.