FEMA Holds Employee Trainings on ‘White Supremacy’ As More Than 1,000 Hawaiians Remain Missing

Disaster agency's diversity presentations say 'white supremacy' is 'ingrained in nearly every system'

Chauncia Willis
Chaunica Willis (FlourishDx/YouTube)
August 25, 2023

The federal government agency tasked with leading the response to natural disasters has its hands full as more than 1,000 Americans remain missing following wildfires that devastated the Hawaiian island of Maui. FEMA nonetheless is mandating a three-hour diversity training for employees that argues, among other things, that white supremacy is "ingrained in nearly every system and institution in the U.S."

While it's unclear how many of FEMA's 20,000-plus employees were required to complete the training, internal emails reviewed by the Free Beacon indicate that the agency’s "resilience" division was advised of a requirement to complete one of three three-hour diversity training modules between Aug. 1 and Sept. 28. "FEMA Resilience" works to "help communities across the United States equitably adapt, survive, recover and thrive in the face of natural disasters" and boasts roughly 2,600 employees, according to someone familiar. The division is led by Biden administration appointee Victoria Salinas, the agency's website says.

The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion trainings contend that the United States is "rooted in extreme, extraordinary violence" and demand participants acknowledge "that systemic racism and oppression exist," according to screenshots of the training obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

FEMA leaders informed staff of the training in a July email, indicating that the effort is "part of our ongoing commitment to instill Equity as a Foundation of Emergency Management." Staffers are required to take at least one course to meet their "DEI training requirement," according to the email.

FEMA's email says its equity trainings were "developed by the Institute for Diversity and Inclusion in Emergency Management." The institute's CEO, Chauncia Willis, told the Free Beacon she delivered the training live to FEMA employees "months ago." FEMA appears to have recorded Willis's live presentation to play back to employees, with the agency using its internal "resilience equity adviser," Christopher Smith, to pause the presentation and direct employees to engage in small group discussions, a video of the training obtained by the Free Beacon shows.

"White supremacy is an ideology, a pattern of values and beliefs that are ingrained in nearly every system and institution in the U.S.," the presentation says in a section titled, "Why Start With White Supremacy and Race?" In another section, titled, "The Uncomfortable Truth," the presentation says the United States "was established and rooted in extreme, extraordinary violence."

"The established economic, justice, and social systems all require subjugation of certain groups," the presentation continues.

A spokesman for the agency said that the training in question is not required. (FEMA Resilience employees may choose among three options.) The spokesman, however, said that the agency requires two trainings of all employees: "Civil Rights and FEMA Disaster 2023" and "Including People with Disabilities and Others with Access and Functional Needs in Disaster Operations."

FEMA is facing criticism that as many as 1,100 people remain missing in Hawaii after the deadliest wildfire in modern U.S. history ravaged the island earlier this month. Agency administrator Deanne Criswell struggled on Monday to explain why so many people remain unaccounted for two weeks after the fire was mostly contained. "There's a lot of different reasons on why people are unaccounted for," Criswell told CNN. "It could be that they are staying with family and friends."

FEMA is also facing blowback for putting up hundreds of its employees in five-star resorts in Hawaii such as the Four Seasons, where rooms cost $1,000 per night and are located nearly a 45-minute drive from the disaster sites. A local government employee named Kaleo told the Daily Mail the luxurious accommodations are "selfish."

"Shouldn't they stay closer to the site, instead of staying across on the other side of the island?" he said.

In the "Historical Perspectives of Emergency Management" course, instructor Willis argues that white supremacists often hide their views in order to blend into society as "nice people." Willis specifically works to "integrate equity into all facets of disaster policy," her website says, and her LinkedIn touts her status as a FEMA-certified "Emergency Management Executive." Willis's Institute for Diversity and Inclusion in Emergency Management lists FEMA as a client.

"There's this false narrative that white supremacists are outspoken extremists, they’re domestic terrorists, they’re the people that are protesting the removal of confederate monuments," Willis said during the presentation, according to a recording. "But these are examples of extreme white supremacy. By personifying white supremacists as these types of extremists, then we're gonna overlook the white supremacists lurking in the workplace, lurking in the schools, within the community, and remember nice people can be white supremacists."

President Joe Biden is also facing scrutiny for his delayed response to the Maui wildfires. After initially addressing the disaster, he went four days without commenting on it and has repeatedly refused to answer media inquiries about it.

On Monday, the president spent less than six hours in Hawaii. Biden told stories about his decades-old kitchen fire before jetting back to an $18 million Nevada mansion for a weeklong vacation.