Posted on April 10, 2023

DEI Denial Is the Modern Day Lynching

Ya'ke Smith, Boston Globe, March 28, 2023

In the 19th and 20th centuries, lynching was a White public spectacle meant to warn and intimidate Black people who “disrupted” the status quo, or violated the “law.” These supposed infractions by Black “trouble makers” were arbitrary. A Black person could be killed for not moving off the sidewalk when passing by a White person.


In these times, a traditional lynching is almost universally unacceptable. Most people can’t even fathom the barbaric act happening now; and they can’t believe that their ancestors may have participated in the carnage back then. However, modern day attacks on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion policies in higher education institutions are the equivalent of the tightened rope, and just as suffocating.

There is a perception among DEI opponents that the initiatives are about exclusion and indoctrination, but as someone who oversaw a DEI office for several years, I know it is neither. The primary functions of DEI are to make people think more deeply about how discrimination is baked into the structures of organizations, and to collectively find solutions to disrupt these inequalities and inequities. These initiatives are meant to provide tools for dismantling historically oppressive and violent systems — systems that impact everyone.


The summer of 2020 was a very peculiar time for America. After the execution of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the country, and the world, went through what many have dubbed a “racial reckoning.” {snip}


Diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives had gone into full speed. According to a 2021 report conducted by Lever, 57% of employers were looking at their hiring efforts to meet their DEI goals. Many corporations and entities adopted one or more calls to action: Black Lives Matter. {snip} It Takes All of Us.

Fast forward three years, and across the U.S., DEI policies and practices are being stripped away. Abbott’s office recently sent out a memo warning state agencies that using DEI policies in their hiring practices violates federal and state employment laws (a claim that continues to be heavily disputed). As a result many academic institutions have halted DEI initiatives.

The board of Regents at the University of Texas at Austin recently announced a pause of all new DEI policies and a review of all current DEI policies. Texas Tech University sent out a memo stating that they are reviewing their hiring practices because they could “be viewed as possibly exclusionary.”

The University of Houston and the Texas A&M system both banned DEI statements as part of their hiring practices.

And DeSantis’ 2022 “Stop Woke Act” restricted the teaching of certain race-based issues in K-12 classrooms, and his refusal to allow a new African-American AP course to be taught in the state, allegedly sent the college board scrambling to revise and basically water the course down.

Those against DEI want people to become distracted by false notions of difference. This is a distraction that stops the fight against a larger power structure that keeps many Americans from understanding the truth of history. If we see each other as enemies, the real enemy can go unchecked. Implicit bias and hatred surrounds, consumes, and confines us. It is present in textbooks, churches, institutions of higher education, news media, art galleries, and films.