Alabama’s Stand Black Democrats Lead the Charge Against Anti-DEI Laws

Alabama’s Stand: Black Democrats Lead the Charge Against Anti-DEI Laws

A helmet and ball bag are visible during a football game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Florida State University Seminoles in Atlanta on September 2, 2017.
As all Black people have rapidly learned, “DEI” has become not only a euphemism for the favorite insult of racists everywhere, but also a target of GOP politicians around the country.

The latest example is the University of Texas at Austin firing off approximately 60 staff who formerly worked in diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, as originally reported by the Austin American-Statesman and later confirmed by UT Austin President Jay Hartzell via email.

“I recognize that strong feelings have surrounded SB 17 from the beginning and will shape many Longhorns’ perceptions of these measures,” Hartzell said, referring to the state legislation that resulted in layoffs. “It is also important that this continues to be a welcoming, supportive community for all.”

Senate Bill 17, which prohibits DEI projects in Texas public colleges and universities, was approved last year and took effect in January. State Senator Brandon Creighton (R) threatened institutions that if they did not comply, their money would be frozen.

As a Texan, I’m outraged by the legislation, but not surprised that blatant hate toward Black people has been institutionalized in law. However, when it comes to “what now,” I hope that Texans and others who have been placed in this situation by Republicans would look to Alabama for guidance on how to respond.

During the most recent Black History Month, a white politician presented a measure in Alabama that would eliminate taxpayer-funded diversity, equality, and inclusion departments. Speaking to reporters about his legislation, state Sen. Will Barfoot (R) stated, “We shouldn’t be forcing or teaching children that one race, gender, or religion is superior to another.” These are just a few of the contentious themes mentioned there.”

According to my recollection of Republican concerns about Black people in recent years, Barfoot appears to be reusing political talking points about critical race theory, which was not intended to make white children cry and is not commonly taught in their K-12 public schools.

What’s That Got to Do With DEI?

Both involve Negroes!

Barfoot will not phrase it exactly like that, but he will get close.

The measure seeks to prohibit “state agencies, local boards of education, and public institutions of higher education, from maintaining a diversity, equity, and inclusion office or department or sponsoring any diversity, equity, and inclusion program or program that advocates for a divisive concept.”

It also prohibits public institutions from “promoting, endorsing, or requiring affirmation of… certain divisive concepts relating to race, gender, or religion.”

So it appears that no Black students have graduated from predominantly white schools. There are no Pride celebrations on any campus. Everything else that is not straight and white is also gone. Regardless of the phrasing, Barfoot believes that the measure would not sanitize his state’s history of racism.

“There is specific language in there that encourages and authorizes, continues to authorize the teaching of historically-accurate history, and certainly, I think that is a fabric of what has made Alabama from a history standpoint…the good, bad, and the ugly,” he went on to say.

“I don’t think we need to gloss over that.”

The phrase “historically accurate history” conveys all about what “specific language” means.

After all, who better to rely on for realistic depictions of American history — particularly when it comes to bigotry and slavery — than one of the Confederacy’s most prominent members, Alabama?

Black MPs are understandably frustrated by their neo-Confederate colleagues’ shenanigans.

Alabama state Sen. Rodger Smitherman (D) stated on the Senate floor following the legislation’s filing: “You’re attempting to ruin every black person in this state. You are attempting to destroy them. That is what you are doing. The critical race theory bill has the potential to eliminate our race. It takes off everything that African-Americans have accomplished, as well as the routes and valleys that allow them to have an opportunity in this state.”

Separately, state Sen. Kirk Hatcher (D) indicated that he would retire over the legislation.

“I’m just tired,” he admitted in committee. “I’m praying about the letter I wrote to resign from the Senate. “I can’t do stuff like this.”

Democrats are anticipated to filibuster the bill, but given the Republican Party’s current state, eliminating all DEI-related programs will remain a key goal. So it may just be a question of time.

As many college students at Texas colleges are discovering, the absence of those programs and the communities they serve will be felt the moment they are declared illegal.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin (D) responded to the Alabama bill on social media, comparing the push to eliminate taxpayer-funded DEI agencies to former Gov. George Wallace’s (D) previous efforts to combat desegregation.

“To the leadership, athletic directors, and coaches at the University of Alabama, Auburn University, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham: Do you support this prohibition of diversity and inclusion?” Woodfin wrote.

He then proposed a possible political solution: “Although I’m the biggest Alabama fan, I have no problem organizing Black parents and athletes to attend other institutions outside of the state where diversity and inclusion are prioritized.”

Consider what would happen to Alabama’s public colleges and universities if Black athletes were successfully persuaded to quit the state in protest. Apply this to Texas and other states where Republicans have enacted racist legislation.

While Republican politicians and the media have targeted Black history and Black people, the Democratic Party has responded sparingly, if at all. Despite all of the fearmongering about Donald Trump, Tucker Carlson, Ron DeSantis, and others are still actively attempting to clean American history or undermine programs aimed at assisting underrepresented populations.

People like Barfoot are local troops in the campaign to erase and silence us. Some Democrats have issued statements and sent scathing tweets, but nothing matches the passion of conservatives.

If they are looking for the correct messaging, as they should be, they should go to Black Democrats in Alabama like Woodfin. At the very least, they are willing to identify Republicans’ initiatives for what they are.

And if they don’t listen, we can carry out this plan ourselves. If they don’t want us, we can go where we’re wanted and valued.

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