Posted on April 1, 2024

Is DEI a Racial Slur? Rise in Term Outrages Black Americans

Khaleda Rahman, Newsweek, March 30, 2024

lack Americans say “DEI” has been co-opted as a racial slur after conservatives sought to blame diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives for the deadly Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse in Baltimore.

Authorities say a cargo ship lost control and struck one of the bridge’s supports, causing it to collapse. Two of the construction workers who were on the bridge were rescued. The bodies of two missing construction workers were recovered on Wednesday, while four others are still missing and presumed dead.

DEI programs have become a frequent target of right-wing activists in recent years, and Republican lawmakers are backing dozens of bills targeting DEI initiatives at universities and other public institutions.

Some sought to cast Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, who is Black, as a diversity hire, despite him being elected to office with more than 70 percent of the vote in a city with a predominantly Black population.

He was dubbed Baltimore’s “DEI mayor” in one post on X, formerly Twitter, by a verified account with almost 300,000 followers. It has amassed more than 25 million views.

Scott has responded to the attacks, saying on MSBNC’s The ReidOut on Wednesday that he knows what those critics actually “want to say.”


“We know what they want to say. But they don’t have the courage to say the N-word, and the fact that I don’t believe in their untruthful and wrong ideology, and I am very proud of my heritage and who I am and where I come from, scares them,” Scott said.


Others who sought to attribute the tragedy to DEI initiatives included Anthony Sabatini, a Florida congressional candidate, and Utah State Representative Phil Lyman.


Several prominent Black Americans also took to social media to respond to the attacks, saying that racists have taken to using “DEI” as a stand-in for the n-word.

“I guess DEI is the new ‘N’ word,” Florida State Senator Shevrin Jones wrote on X.

Representative Maxwell Alejandro Frost, a Democrat from Florida, wrote on X: “DEI hire = disgusting racial slur.”

Journalist Jemele Hill responded: “Just call him a n****r. Cause at this point, I’m more offended that you’re this much of an imbecile.”