- Diversity trainer
- Believes that the United States, throughout its history, has been rife with racism and injustice
- Says that “the Pilgrims were illegal aliens” who “never gave their passports to the Indians”
Samuel Betances, who holds a doctorate from Harvard University, spent 23 years as a Professor of Sociology at Northeastern Illinois University. Describing himself as “a biracial, bicultural, and bilingual citizen of the world,” Betances today is best known as a professional diversity trainer who got his start in that field under former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.
In 1990 Betances co-founded Souder, Betances & Associates (SBA), a diversity consultancy whose training sessions “challenge members of organizations to reduce and eliminate prejudice and all forms of discrimination in the workplace.” “When uniqueness is respected in people,” says SBA, “morale and productivity improve.”
Over the course of his career, Betances has served as a diversity consultant to U.S. presidents, Fortune 500 CEOs and staff, governmental agencies, community groups, law-enforcement agencies, healthcare providers, faith-based organizations, and educators at every level (from kindergarten through college). His seminars and workshops are designed to “challeng[e] negative mindsets” and help “white males and non-traditional groups work together” in “new, non-sexist and balanced systems” that “brin[g] cultures together.” “Accept our diversity,” Betances advises. “Embrace it. Make it work for you. Harness the rainbow.”
In February 2013 the conservative educational foundation Judicial Watch released video footage it had obtained of one particular “cultural sensitivity training” session that Betances had recently given to employees at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In that session, Betances emphasized that the history of the United States was thoroughly steeped in racism and injustice. For example: “[Some] Mexicans came to this country last night illegally; never mind that the United States expanded and took over what used to be Mexico. If the truth be known, in a lot of these circumstances, if you tell some of these Mexicans ‘Go back where you came from,’ they go to Texas, California, Arizona.”
Betances also alleged that Amerca’s Founding Fathers had derived both their system of government and their national symbol from Native Americans: “And so when our founding elders and our Founding Fathers said, ‘We don’t want King George. We want our George Washington to create a republic with tools of democracy,’ our founding elders went to the Iroquois, native indigenous Americans in upstate New York, to borrow their system of governance. In fact, when I met with some of the Iroquois leadership some years ago, they say ‘Dr. Betances, not only did the Founding Fathers take our way of governing, they also took our symbol of nationhood, the eagle, as their symbol of nation-state.’”
Throughout the session, Betances instructed attendees to repeat a variety of assertions that he made. For example: “If we work for a federal agency … we have discriminated in the past. Every federal agency has discriminated against African Americans, Hispanics, Native American Indians, and other groups.” “[I]f you work for a federal agency,” Betances went on to explain, “it doesn’t matter if it’s DOD, Commerce, Labor, Education, Housing, every agency has discriminated, because every agency reflects the values of the generation in charge.” “We’ve got grievances!” he added. “This institution [USDA], like all federal institutions, have [sic] not been fair.”
Betances also attempted to remove the stigma from illegal immigration by instructing attendees to repeat after him: “I want you to say that America was founded by outsiders—say that—who are today’s insiders, who are very nervous about today’s outsiders. I want you to say, ‘The Pilgrims were illegal aliens.’ Say, ‘The Pilgrims never gave their passports to the Indians.’” Numerous times, Betances tried to reinforce his points by having the employees shout “Bam!” in response.
“By the way, said Betances at one juncture, “I don’t like the word ‘minorities.’ How about ‘emerging majorities’?” At another point in the proceedings, Betances said that “white males” had been responsible “for slavery … sexism, [and] what happened to the indigenous Native American folks.”
Betances’ USDA training session grew directly out of a policy put in place by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, who in April 2009 issued a memo to all agency employees announcing “a new era of civil rights” and “cultural transformation,” and instructed the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights “to lead a comprehensive program to improve USDA’s record on civil rights and move us into a new era as a model employer and premier service provider.”
But the specifics of this program were supposed to have been kept secret from the public, as evidenced by an October 10, 2011 email exchange in which USDA training administrator Vincent Loran promised Betances that video footage of his training session “will not be used for or show [sic] in any way shape or form.” In one notable correspondence, Loran expressed his love for Betances and addressed him as “father.”
In 2011 and 2012, the USDA paid Betances and his firm almost $200,000 for their services. From 2007-2012, the federal government as a whole paid the firm more than $3.31 million—of which $2.8 million came from the Defense Department.