- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Walt Disney Co. shareholders rejected a proposed audit of the company’s antiracism training for employees during their annual meeting Wednesday.

The proposal, found on page 83 of the company’s 2022 proxy statement, called on the Board of Directors to “commission a workplace non-discrimination audit analyzing Disney’s impacts, including the impacts arising from Disney-sponsored or -promoted employee training, on civil rights and non-discrimination in the workplace, and the impacts of those issues on Disney’s business.”

On the same page, Disney’s board recommended that shareholders vote against the proposal, which they did by an unpublicized margin.

“The proponent mischaracterizes the Company’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and the means by which it seeks to achieve those ends,” the board wrote. “This proposal also does not specifically call for enhanced disclosures or practices to improve the workplace for females or underrepresented minorities.”

Disney’s board added: “Our training program is a critical piece of achieving these goals, including the Company’s work to assure an environment that is free of discrimination and inclusive of all.”

The conservative National Center for Public Policy Research, a Disney shareholder, presented the proposal to Wednesday’s virtual meeting.

Justin Danhof, executive vice president of the D.C.-based think tank, argued during the meeting that the company’s antiracism curriculum ironically perpetuates racism by teaching that all Whites are racist.

“This absolutely racist teaching focuses on so-called ‘White privilege’ being at the root of everything in society and insists that white people are always the oppressor, and everyone else is oppressed to one degree or another,” Mr. Danhof told shareholders.

After the meeting, Mr. Danhof said in a statement: “Corporate America needs an entire human resources overhaul and there is no better company with which to start than Disney.”

Disney CEO Bob Chapek did not comment on Mr. Danhof’s remarks during the meeting, and the company did not respond afterward to a request for comment.

Anthropologist Peter W. Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars conservative education advocacy group, said he was disappointed in the company’s response.

The Walt Disney Company made a terrible decision when it imposed so-called ‘anti-racism’ training on its employees,” Mr. Wood said. “To counter this supposedly pervasive racism, the company is imposing a hardcore racism of its own, one that sharply divides employees by race and demands that they behave according to different standards and that they treat one another according to different expectations.”

Mr. Wood, a former college provost who has written a book on efforts to reframe American history according to racism, added that Disney’s stance may hurt it financially with consumers.

“It is also a policy that will undermine the public’s goodwill to the company,” he said. “The story this policy is telling is that Disney executives care more about posturing for progressive elites and winning the approval of radical activists than they care about fairness to the company’s workers.”

Disney has taken a strong public stance in favor of diversity, equity and inclusion in recent years.

In October 2020, the company strengthened its racism content warning for classic animated films, originally inserted during the November 2019 launch of its Disney+ streaming platform.

Several animated classics including “Peter Pan” (1953), “Dumbo” (1941) and “Jungle Book” (1968) now carry a warning that reads in part: “This program includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures. These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now.”

The new statement deleted the word “may” from the warning about racist depictions.

Last May, Christopher Rufo, a fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute, published in the City Journal several internal documents from Disney’s “Reimagine Tomorrow” antiracism program that urged workers to reflect on America’s “racist infrastructure.”

The document “Allyship for Race Consciousness” tells workers the U.S. has a “long history of systemic racism and transphobia.”

“By identifying someone as Black or Latinx, but not categorizing someone else as White, you’re saying that White is the norm by which all other races are measured,” the document states.

That series of reports inspired the National Center for Public Policy Research to present its audit proposal.

Mr. Rufo said Wednesday that shareholders should “have a look inside the company” to understand why it “has embraced the philosophy of neo-racism in its corporate training programs.”

“Something is deeply wrong inside Walt Disney Company and I applaud the activist shareholders who are trying to find out what’s happening,” Mr. Rufo said.

• Sean Salai can be reached at ssalai@washingtontimes.com.

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