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Bill banning DEI measures for public entities passes Senate committee

The bill will move to the Senate floor for potential passage to the House.

The Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery.
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A Senate committee on Wednesday approved the passage of a bill that would prohibit diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives for certain public entities in Alabama.

The bill, SB129, is sponsored by Sen. Will Barfoot, R-Pike Road. The legislation states that public institutions of higher learning, state agencies, and local education boards are prohibited from promoting or engaging in DEI programs. The bill also includes provisions against what it defines as “divisive concepts” from being promoted in these public entities.

If these prohibitions are violated by employees or contractors of the public agencies, then they can be subject to disciplinary actions or termination.

“This bill would prohibit certain public entities, including 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,” the bill reads.

The legislation marks a renewed attempt to pass into law a measure against DEI and “divisive concepts,” which have failed in previous years in the Alabama Legislature. Criticisms of the bill remain the same, as many individuals allege the bill attempts to prevent history with the “divisive concepts” and limit topics of diversity and inclusion needed to help foster a better understanding of people from different backgrounds.

During the committee meeting, a public hearing was held with several individuals speaking in opposition to and in support of the bill.

Becky Gerritson, director of the Eagle Forum, supported the legislation because she said the concepts were dehumanizing because they attempted to define people based on immutable characteristics like race.

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Jerome Dees, policy director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said that the legislation could inhibit the ability of teachers to properly discuss certain topics that include race, as those topics could be interpreted as “divisive.”

The “divisive concepts” are defined as the following according to the legislation:

  • A. That any race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity, or national origin is inherently superior or inferior.
  • B. That individuals should be discriminated against or adversely treated because of their race, color, religion, ethnicity, or national origin.
  • C. That the moral character of an individual is determined by his or her race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity, or national origin. That, by virtue of an individual’s race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity, or national origin, the individual is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or subconsciously.
  • D. That individuals, by virtue of race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity, or national origin, are inherently responsible for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity, or national origin.
  • E. That fault, blame, or bias should be assigned to members of a race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity, or national origin, on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity, or national origin.
  • F. That any individual should accept, acknowledge, affirm, or assent to a sense of guilt, complicity, or a need to apologize on the basis of his or her race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity, or national origin.
  • G. That meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist.
  • H. That slavery and racism are aligned with the founding principles of the United States.

All of the Democratic committee members opposed the legislation, with them stating they were confused and saddened by the legislation.

Sen. Kirk Hatcher, D-Montgomery, offered emotional commentary about the bill and how his mother apologized for “not completing the work.” Hatcher also noted that all of the individuals who spoke in opposition were white or “non-melanated folks.”

“I’m paying attention to the people who came up to support the bill,” he said. “You are all non-melanated folk.”

Sen. Merika Coleman, D-Montgomery, referenced several examples of Republican colleagues saying or doing acts that were offensive. Coleman talked about Gov. Bob Riley saying she was “articulate” and not understanding that they could be interpreted as offensive due to the racist belief that Black people cannot speak proper English.

Coleman said this example demonstrated the importance of DEI training.

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The bill will move to the Senate floor for potential passage to the House.

Patrick Darrington is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected].

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