The U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division has dropped its inquiry into the City of Seattle’s racial equity training for City employees. The investigation was launched under U.S. Attorney General William Barr to investigate whether the City’s training violated the Civil Rights Act.
Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said, “This was a politically motivated investigation both without merit and without heart. City employees were not and are not excluded from participating in voluntary training sessions because of their racial self-identification. My gratitude to Assistant City Attorney Zahraa Wilkinson who represented the Office for Civil Rights during this fruitless investigation. I’m thrilled to have it in the rearview mirror.”
“Elections matter, and President Biden is taking actions to help our nation and our city. Former President Trump and his administration constantly targeted Seattle with politically motivated attacks and litigation. In my initial conversations with the Biden-Harris administration, they are focused on all the right priorities and are looking to be a partner to help the City of Seattle and its residents. In the coming weeks, we will continue to work to ensure our City receives much needed federal resources while no longer having litigate political lawsuits,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan. “They targeted Seattle because it moved to defend our immigrant and refugee communities and because our commitment to Race and Social Justice includes racial equity training. In recent Executive action, President Biden revoked Trump’s ban on anti-bias training and moved forward his vision for creating a more equitable government. The City of Seattle’s commitment to creating a more just city includes the training and tools necessary to do this work. I am grateful to the City Attorney’s Office for their work in representing the City and thank the Office for Civil Rights for its work.”
Mariko Lockhart, Director for the Seattle Office for Civil Rights (SOCR), said, “We are extremely pleased that this investigation has been dropped. From the beginning, it was intended to undermine and threaten efforts to advance racial justice, not just in Seattle, but throughout the country. After Trump’s incitement of the insurrection at the nation’s Capitol, it is undeniable that his administration’s baseless investigation was part of a broader campaign to strengthen the White Nationalist movement and agenda. SOCR was not deterred by the inquiry and will continue to work to end racism and discrimination.”
The Seattle Office for Civil Rights has been conducting racial equity trainings for employees since the inception of the Race and Social Justice Initiative in 2004. For City employees, the Race and Social Justice Initiative trainings engage employees; build an understanding of the history and principles that guide racial equity work; teach the language, definitions, and application of race analysis; and develop community values with other city employees. These outcomes are critical for employees working and organizing to change the culture, policies, and practices of our city workplace.
The Department of Justice’s letter to City Attorney Pete Holmes yesterday said, “The purpose of the investigation was to fully evaluate the matters and obtain additional facts. The Department of Justice has concluded its investigation and has decided to close the matter without further action.”