Editorial “DEI!” It’s the new Red (state) Scare

Photo Courtesy Texas A&M University: Aerial photo of Texas A&M.

Column By John Young

At the college where I teach, the school year started with an “LGBTQ Appreciation” reception.

It was followed by a Black student reception, followed by a first-generation student event. Then the school celebrated a new multicultural resources zone at the student center.

At my school, the words “diversity, ethnicity, and inclusion” are points of pride. Indeed, they are school policy. They sure as hell won’t cause anyone to get demoted or lose a job.

Unlike in the totalitarian state of Texas.

Let’s face it. Red-state America has become an intellectual gulag.

In keeping with other lands that are despot-ruled, academics are the first to feel the iron hand.

Until very recently, increased diversity was a stated goal of Texas A&M University, along with a commitment to the equity and inclusion such an objective implies.

That was before the White Citizens Council — aka the Texas Legislature’s Republican leadership — took a cue from Fox News and Ron DeSantis and raped the alphabet. They made the letters “D,” “E,” and “I,” when in forbidden order, a capital crime.

It’s just as with the letters “C,” “R,” and “T” when in an arrangement not allowed by the state.

True, state employees are free to use “D,” “E,” and “I” in other formulations. One can spell “DIE” or “IED” without fear of explosion, for instance.

A new Red Scare is what the Washington Post found in reporting about what happened at Texas A&M: Professors and administrators wouldn’t dare speak their minds about it.

Texas Senate Bill 17, signed by Gov. Greg Abbott, bans diversity and equity programs.

It is modeled after the DeSantis’ “anti-woke” jihad, including a bill banning all things DEI.

By the way, for those who wonder what educators mean by “equity,” it’s the principle that not every student starts from the same starting point, with the same advantages (language, heritage, physical ability, sexual orientation — name your challenge) and institutions should be responsive and attentive to the special needs and stigmas attached to each. (To the hyper-privileged like Ron DeSantis, such sensitivity is a horrible thing.)

Aside from being a smelly pile of garbage dumped on a university lawn, this anti-DEI legislation is so vague as to be criminal. Just last week federal judges on the 11th Circuit Court expressed deep concerns that Florida’s prohibition on DEI and “wokeness” in general was so vague as to make potted meat of the First Amendment.

The mess in Texas drew national attention when meddling from on high caused A&M to back away from hiring Kathyrn McElroy to run its journalism school. A former editor with The New York Times, she is a tenured journalism professor at the University of Texas.

After A&M announced her hiring, hard-right critics assailed McElroy, who is Black, for advocacy for DEI. A group of A&M regents pressured A&M’s president to reconsider the hire. Offered a lesser post, she walked away.

The Washington Post story peeled back the bandage on a whole bunch of thought-police atrocities aimed at any and all activities – even the words used — promoting diversity and equity.

For instance, the web page for A&M’s Department of Multicultural Service was scoured for words like “belonging” and “inclusive,” which were removed.

“People are fumbling and afraid about what it means for their classes,” Faculty Senate speaker Tracy Hammond told The Post.

Recently, Hammond led the faculty body in a “moment of silence” for what was crushed under the steel toes of censorial policymakers.

“It feels like part of A&M died this month, and I think we need to mourn,” she said.

It’s the same song, second and third verse, in red states where oppressive MAGA-style warriors are cracking down on how history and race are handled, how institutions accommodate gay, lesbian, and transgendered students, and how books and instruction handle sex and sexuality.

It all amounts to rank oppression, and a calculated step back in social progress.

Speaking of history: Before legislative goons came with their anti-“woke” crackdown, Texas A&M was trying to do something constructive about its own heritage.

It did not enroll people with black skin until 1963, and those people today account for only 3 percent of the student body.

That a respected state university with such a deficiency would be constricted from doing something about it shows that the White Citizens Council still runs things in the neighborhood.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email him at jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

The opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the author.