“Diversity and inclusion sound nice, but they don’t mean what you think.”
I heard this quote during a news segment the other night. I was shocked and actually had to rewind on my TV to ensure I heard correctly. Though I am no stranger to the legacy of vitriol and violence at the hands of groups who perpetually deny the existence of oppression, I still found myself disheartened, disappointed, and frustrated. These words reminded me again what it was to grow up as one of a handful of Black children in an all-White school. They remind me of people screaming that integration would ultimately unravel the United State’s moral fiber. They reminded me that there remains so much work to be done.
I am no stranger to the dangers of this work and have seen others who advocate for DEI and human rights viciously targeted and attacked by its opponents. It is for this reason that I am writing under a pseudonym. I hope to share information safely to educate our community to organize against these groups who will stop at nothing to rewind the clock on progress.
The earlier quote is one of many recent uprisings against local schools, teachers, and local school boards, arguing that teachers are “indoctrinating students with divisive, hateful, racist, anti-American and anti-White” curriculum in schools. These groups generally appear as “concerned” community members and parents but, been given explicit orders and instructions on how to harass elected officials and school staff alike about allegedly teaching things like “critical race theory” or “Marxism” to elementary school children.
Further, they claim that schools are using words like “diversity,” “inclusion,” “equity,” and others to “hide” what they are actually teaching. However, even a recent article by WKYC noted that they had not received any evidence that Critical Race Theory is being taught in schools. Instead, it is a means to lump everything from the history of race and racism to LGBTQ+ inclusion to discussions of civil rights under the scary banner of Critical Race Theory to stifle these vital conversations.
This strategy is but one in a long legacy of tactics used by individuals and organizations against these words, diversity, equity, and inclusion, in schools. Its purpose is to devalue, distract, and discourage schools from engaging in these meaningful conversations when we know that schools are JUST the space to have these conversations!
Schools are where many of our formative memories are crafted. Our experiences with peers, staff, teachers, and so forth will shape how we think about and value education. During this time, learning about and standing up for others, working across and celebrating our differences, and exploring how various groups contributed to the United States canon is so important. These are skills students can carry with them into life beyond school. And isn’t that what we want students to do? To learn skills that will help them into adulthood?
These groups are motivated by fear. They ultimately do not want people to treat others with dignity and full recognition of their humanity. People of color, LGBTQ+ people, disabled people, and all other marginalized groups are humans first and foremost. Our lives are not up for debate! We are not a thought experiment to debate about idly or be designated as some form of ‘propaganda.’
We are real, breathing, loving people. We deserve recognition as such in and out of a classroom environment. Unfortunately, as queer people living in Ohio, we know that consistent moves attempt to take away what few rights we do have, and our youth are most at-risk. Most recently, House Bill 322 and House Bill 327 have been introduced as a means to limit lessons on “current events, race, and sex” as well as aims to “prohibit teaching, advocating, or promoting divisive concepts,” will exponentially harm those of us who are marginalized.
I am imploring you all, readers, to learn more about the war on diversity, equity, and inclusion programs. Learn more about the history of schools teaching these subjects and how “red-baiting” strategies have been used to subvert these important dialogues, such as labeling organizing groups like the Students for Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) as “communist” during the 1960s Freedom Movement. These strategies are a tried and true chapter of the playbook to invoke fear and hate against groups advocating for civil rights and equality. All we need do is examine the hidden legacy of Cointelpro for a reminder of its devastating effects.
But, most importantly, I am begging you to go to your local school board meetings and tell them that you support diversity, equity, and inclusion and that you value and want students to learn about these critical topics. Call and write our Ohio State School Board members to do the same. These programs, curriculum, and our youth are in grave danger. It’s up to each of us in our respective communities to save them and save the future of our nation.
Dr. Libertas X