The Midwesterner has learned the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, under the directorship of both Robert Gordon and Elizabeth Hertel, has instituted mandatory race-based trainings for employees.

Several internal emails obtained by The Midwesterner reveal group sessions focusing heavily on race-based philosophy.

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The Office of Workforce Development & Training (OWDT), an office that “provides training services for adult services, child welfare, public assistance and leadership development,” issued a “Race Equity Protocol for Hiring,” which is described as a “race-informed hiring protocol to advance our commitment to anti-racist multicultural organizational transformation.”

The OWDT consists of 54 individuals, according to a publicly available staff listing.

An office-wide email dated July 16, 2020, mandated employees include this sentence in his/her signature: “OWDT is committed to becoming an anti-racist, multicultural organization by valuing one another through diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

According to a state government source, employees are required to participate in trainings by a Kalamazoo outfit called Eliminating Racism & Creating/Celebrating Equity (ERACCE).

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“The ERACCE workshops (typically two-days, and which are most egregious) are mandatory, as is the Race Equity Review Tool meetings,” the source said, adding there were three such events in 2022.

“The latter meeting is ‘…to help staff understand their role and responsibility in disrupting racism with the training products that are developed and delivered by OWDT.’ Attendance at monthly unit team meetings in which a cultural diversity topic/presentation – determined by the host – are also mandatory, although participation in the discussion is officially voluntary,” the source said.

An email sent on January 28, 2022 indicated “OWDT staff are required to attend once,” and opportunities to “re-attend” were available.

The source provided screenshots for two of the sessions:

It is not clear how much MDHHS pays ERACCE for the trainings, which have been around for over 20 years.

Liis Lahti serves as co-executive director of ERACCE. In 2020, Lahti took to GoFundMe to finance an “anti-racist top surgery.”

Lahti wrote:

I’m an antiracist white person.  Which means I work to act in antiracist ways in all aspects of my life.  And I seek accountability to People of Color.  In an attempt to use my privilege in an accountable way, I have increased my fundraising goal and I am committed to redirect half of what this campaign raises to Black and Brown trans fundraising efforts that have not yet met their goals.

Lahti raised $9,434 for the procedure, which took place in San Francisco.

One email, sent to at least 15 employees on April 8, 2021, summarized one training referred to as “Doing Our Work” (DOW). and makes reference to a belief that employees have an Internal Racialized Superiority (IRS). It said after the training, employees would take several additional steps, including:

  • “Remember that we are all harmed by white supremacy…”
  • “Advocate for policies that redistribute wealth and reparations.”
  • “Recognize that the American Dream is a myth and that story is used to keep us focused on resource hoarding.”
  • “Support far-left candidates…”
  • “Amplify people of color by donating directly to them… Contribute to reparations for people of color. Pay people of color for their work.”

Another email, dated June 10, 2022, asked how IRS “prevent[s] us from interrogating harmful language?”

MDHHS employees were taught the English language “was built upon white supremacy.”

“Worship of the written word drives us, we insist on ‘professional’ language – which is based in white supremacy and disregard the storytelling ways of learning history,” it said.

The 2023 MDHHS budget, passed by the then-Republican controlled Legislature, is $33.4 billion.