- 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 earned a doctorate in Educational Leadership & Administration from Harvard University in 1973, spent approximately 25 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. He says that Daley tasked him with “building bridges of understanding and tearing down walls of separation” among people of various racial and ethnic backgrounds in “the construction business.”
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 a number of 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 April 2009, Tom Vilsack, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), issued a memo to all agency employees announcing “a new era of civil rights” and “cultural transformation,” and instructing 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.” As a consequence of that directive, USDA employees underwent sensitivity training on at least 16 separate occasions in 2012 alone, in an effort to boost their “emotional intelligence.”
The cost of these training sessions was enormous. In 2011-2012, 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.
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 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 alleged that America’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.’”
- Betances instructed attendees to repeat a variety of assertions that he made. For example: “I want you to say: ‘If we work for a federal agency.’ Say that. [Audience repeats] ‘We have discriminated in the past.’ [Audience repeats] Say: ‘Every federal agency,’ [Audience repeats] ‘has discriminated against African Americans,’ [Audience repeats] ‘Hispanics,’ [Audience repeats] ‘Native American Indians,’ [Audience repeats] ‘and other groups’ [Audience repeats]. See, if you work for a federal agency, 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.”
- Betances said: “We’ve got grievances! This institution [the USDA], like all federal institutions, have [sic] not been fair.”
- Betances 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.
- At one juncture, Betances said: “By the way, 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.”
Video of the aforementioned training session in its entirety is available here.
The specifics of what Betances taught in his training sessions 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.”
The video clips were made public, however, after Judicial Watch obtained them through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request made on May 18, 2012.