A federal agency that celebrates everything from Hispanic to African American, Asian and LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) culture is under fire for recently observing European Heritage because it supposedly promotes white nationalism. With 70,000 employees and a whopping $12.8 billion annual budget the Department of the Interior (DOI) prides itself on being inclusive and diverse. The agency manages the nation’s public lands and minerals, national parks, and wildlife refuges. It also upholds federal trust responsibilities to Indian tribes and Native Alaskans and is responsible for the conservation of endangered species and the environment.
DOI regularly observes the country’s diverse cultures by publishing special edition magazines and holding festive events. Recent DOI publications have focused on LGBTQ and Asian Americans. In February it was National African American History Month. September was Hispanic Heritage Month and November will be Native American Heritage Month. So why the bruhaha over European Heritage, which was highlighted in the August edition of a DOI publication known as “Connections?” Some employees believe observing European Heritage is “insensitive” because it improperly endorses “ideals related to white pride,” according to a story published in a digital news site that covers government. DOI workers are “annoyed and angry” that the agency recognized Europeans because it promotes a “white lives matter ideology,” an employee says in the article. The DOI staffer says it is especially troubling “during a time of civil awakening.” Presumably this refers to the radical, leftist Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.
Of interesting note is that the “offensive” 20-page European Heritage issue features a congratulatory message to the magazine staff from the DOI’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administrative Services, a black woman named Jacqueline M. Jones, a veteran government executive who oversees five divisions at the agency. She shares a note from an administrative judge thanking the agency for its commitment to diversity in the workplace. Jones, whose photo appears next to the message, thanks the magazine staff for “connecting with us through these monthly celebrations of diversity, inclusion and equity. We truly are stronger together!” Below her signature is the publication’s table of contents, which includes sections on the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Wales, Germany, the European Union, Russia, and Voices for Change. One section is dedicated to Martin Luther King and highlights his famous 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech. It includes the entire speech, a half-page illustration of King and a separate color photo of the civil rights leader waving to a massive crowd during the March on Washington.
The section dedicated to King evidently did not upset any DOI employees, but some found the portion titled “National Parks with European Connections” offensive because they feel it was insensitive to Native Americans. The magazine states that Native Americans were the largest indigenous group in Florida and Georgia at the time of European contact, occupying about 19,200 square miles with an estimated population of 200,000. According to the news article critical of the publication, a DOI employee viewed this as “suggesting it only served to highlight that those populations have been almost entirely wiped out.” Another agency worker said the entire edition celebrating European Heritage was “tone deaf,” even though it features a renowned civil rights icon and includes diverse cultural experiences of DOI veterans such as a National Park Service (NPS) employee in Florida who writes fondly about exposure to Cuban, Guatemalan, Mexican, British and Irish cultures in the Sunshine State.
In a desperate effort to justify criticism of DOI’s European Heritage magazine, the article states that the “Southern Poverty Law Center has flagged various organizations that celebrate European heritage as associated with white nationalism.” The reality is that the SPLC is a radical leftist nonprofit that lists conservative organizations that disagree with it on social issues on a catalog of “hate groups.” Its famous “hate map” helped a gunman commit an act of terrorism against a conservative nonprofit in 2012. The Virginia man, Floyd Lee Corkins, was sentenced to 25 years in prison though prosecutors recommended 45 because his crime was an act of terrorism. Even the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) officially reprimanded the SPLC for its hateful attacks, according to documents obtained by Judicial Watch in 2017. The rebuke was a vindication for groups targeted by the SPLC’s witch hunts and was especially impactful because the Obama administration was tight with the SPLC and even hired the controversial nonprofit to conduct diversity training for the government.