Ray Carter | June 14, 2021
Paycom presents racial ‘conversation’
Paycom, whose CEO previously declared that diversity training efforts at the University of Oklahoma “failed because they assured free speech protection,” is now presenting a “statewide conversation on race” for the membership of five state organizations.
Advancing Oklahoma, presented by Paycom, is a program offered to the members of Leadership Oklahoma, The Oklahoma Academy, Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits, Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice, and the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to create a space where we can continue a necessary conversation about a relevant topic in our state,” said A.J. Griffin, director of government and community affairs at Paycom, in a prepared statement.
The website for the program declares that Oklahoma’s “demographics are changing” and that the state is on track to “become a minority-majority state,” which will bring “challenges—especially in the context of modern civil rights, as diverse populations struggle to understand one another.”
The site describes the program as “a lengthy conversation about race and race relations in Oklahoma” that will include “our school system, business, government, criminal justice system, and our place on the global stage.”
“It’s the only way together we can advance Oklahoma,” the site declares.
Paycom CEO Chad Richison has previously waded into issues of race and diversity training and complained that such efforts have been hindered by free-speech rights.
In a March 3, 2020 letter to the University of Oklahoma’s board of regents, Richison wrote that the university’s “previous diversity training efforts failed because they assured free speech protection.” He announced Paycom was yanking advertising from the school.
In his letter, Richison indicated he decided to pull Paycom advertising because of school officials’ response to then-recent racial controversies, which included an instance of a professor reading aloud a historical statement that included a racial pejorative to illustrate the racism of the time. In his letter, Richison said OU officials’ responses to such incidents showed the OU board of regents had opted to “choose to hide behind free speech over deterring discrimination.”
Materials touting Advancing Oklahoma include numerous references to “equity,” a term associated with Marxist-derived Critical Race Theory, which typically declares that racial “equality” isn’t fair, and that equal outcomes should instead be the focus of institutions.
“Advancing Oklahoma has a topic-driven framework to encourage an honest discussion around race, social justice and inequities. As a state, we must strive to create an inclusive culture based on a greater understanding and appreciation of our diversity,” said Lana Reynolds, board chair of Leadership Oklahoma, in an announcement. “Everything we do at Leadership Oklahoma focuses on strengthening and advancing our state. Helping Oklahomans embrace inclusion and equity is more important now than ever before. We appreciate our partners, like lead sponsor Paycom, for facilitating this important program.”
One of the Advancing Oklahoma sessions will involve a focus on how to “talk about race, racism and equity in the classroom.” Another session will focus on “advocacy” and specifically highlights “Black Lives Matter, Hispanic Heritage Month and Indigenous People’s Day: what modern movements in social justice means to Oklahoma.”
The webpage that lists Paycom as the program’s presenting sponsor states that all sponsors are “dedicated” to an “equitable Oklahoma.”
Opponents of Critical Race Theory and its various offshoots warn that the concepts embodied in current use of the word “equity” are often antithetical to citizens’ freedom and longstanding constitutional rights.
Christopher F. Rufo, a national expert on Critical Race Theory who is the founder of Battlefront, a public policy research center, has said, “In contrast to equality, equity as defined and promoted by critical race theorists is little more than reformulated Marxism. In the name of equity, UCLA law professor and critical race theorist Cheryl Harris has proposed suspending private property rights, seizing land and wealth and redistributing them along racial lines.”
Rufo warned that an “equity-based form of government would mean the end not only of private property, but also of individual rights, equality under the law, federalism, and freedom of speech. These would be replaced by race-based redistribution of wealth, group-based rights, active discrimination, and omnipotent bureaucratic authority.”
James Lindsay, a mathematician and political commentator who founded the New Discourses website, has noted, “Where equality means that citizen A and citizen B are treated equally, equity means ‘adjusting shares in order to make citizens A and B equal.’ In that sense, equity is something like a kind of ‘social communism,’ if we will—the intentional redistribution of shares, but not necessarily along lines of existing economic disparity but in order to adjust for and correct current and historical injustices, both as exist in reality and as have been drawn out by the various critical theories …”
Mike Gonzalez, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, has written, “Equity has now come to mean the functional opposite of equality. The latter means equal treatment to all citizens, such as the Constitution calls for in the clause of the 14th Amendment that deals with equal protection of laws. Equity means treating Americans unequally to ensure that outcomes are equalized—the old tried (and failed) Marxian standard.”
Director, Center for Independent Journalism
Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.