PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles City Council has voted to oppose President Donald Trump’s executive order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping.
The council voted 7-0 Tuesday to direct Mayor Kate Dexter to promptly co-sign a statement from the National Innovation Service opposing the Sept. 22 order on behalf of the city of Port Angeles as an organization.
Council member Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin added the letter as a late item for the council’s agenda Tuesday.
The executive order prohibits training on systemic racism and sexism by or for federal employees and federal government contractors.
It defines “race or sex stereotyping” as “ascribing character traits, values, moral and ethical codes, privileges, status, or beliefs to a race or sex, or to an individual because of his or her race or sex.”
Said Schromen-Wawrin: “The order itself is framed in the ideal of a color-blind society.
“It claims equality, blind to the realities of our society.”
While the effects of the order on the city of Port Angeles were unclear, Schromen-Wawrin said the edict could impact federal agencies that contract with the city.
“If the federal administration is planning to enforce this executive order, it is something that would eventually, I believe, come to the city unless we chose to disclaim those kinds of federal funds,” Schromen-Wawrin said in a virtual council meeting Tuesday.
“I think, more importantly, especially at this point in time, when there’s a lot of division and discord in our communities, that an order like this has a chilling effect on government employees in terms of what we choose to talk about and address in improving society.”
The executive order instructs federal agencies to end racial sensitivity trainings that tackle issues like white privilege and critical race theory, describing them as anti-American scapegoating.
Such training “perpetuates racial stereotypes and division and can use subtle coercive pressure to ensure conformity of viewpoint,” the order states.
“It shall be the policy of the United States not to promote race or sex stereotyping or scapegoating in the federal workforce or in the uniformed services, and not to allow grant funds to be used for these purposes.”
The National Innovation Service, which works to build systems that produce equitable outcomes, issued a sign-on letter condemning Trump’s order, calling it “unacceptable, explicitly racist and deeply harmful.”
The statement concurs with the National Racial Equity Working Group on Housing and Homelessness.
“We will continue to name white supremacy and systemic racism as barriers to creating comprehensive solutions that achieve stable housing for all,” the statement reads.
Schromen-Wawrin, a constitutional attorney and Port Angeles native, said the federal measure could change how city staff receive trainings and understand government policies.
Mike French and other council members raised concerns about the city wading into national politics but decided to make an exception for the recent order.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for the federal government to tell us that we can’t talk about these things,” French said.
French said the order was “obvious viewpoint discrimination” and therefore unconstitutional.
He quoted U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who said: “‘The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination.”
“The other angle that I think this is really egregious about is we are in charge of the government of the city of Port Angeles,” French said.
“The federal government is not. It is just completely inappropriate for them to tell us what we can and cannot believe. So from a local-control perspective, this really is, I think, disgusting.”
Schromen-Wawrin said he agreed with the sentiment that the council should not wade into national politics.
“At the same time, I think we have an obligation to speak out when we see things that are happening that are wrong and not good governance and divisive and hurtful, ignorant and just patently false,” Schromen-Wawrin said.
In a Sept. 30 email, Schromen-Wawrin asked Dexter and City Manager Nathan West to add the executive order to the council’s Tuesday meeting agenda. He said the issue came up in a Washington Low Income Housing Alliance and state Department of Commerce conference call.
After the agenda was published without the executive order, Schromen-Wawrin informed the council and city staff Monday that he planned to introduce the topic Tuesday.
“Honestly, I have not read it, but I am looking forward to staying up even later and reading this,” Council member Charlie McCaughan said at the Tuesday meeting.
Council member Navarra Carr said she read the executive order after Schromen-Wawrin disseminated it, saying she was “truly horrified” and “deeply saddened” by its language.
“I’m upset about it because it’s an affront to the hard-fought battles that people have won, that women have won,” Carr said.
“It’s 100 years of suffrage for white women. Right? We know that Native American women, that Black women, that Asian women, that Latino women did not get these rights until much later.
“We know that Black people fought on the fields of the Civil War to make sure that they had rights, and that they are still fighting for these rights to this day,” Carr added.
“I think it is just so sad and horrifying that we are forced to have this discussion.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.