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DeSantis wants to target DEI efforts as president

DeSantis wants to target DEI efforts as president
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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has vowed to drastically alter the mandate of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division as U.S. president, promising to use the division to quash diversity, equity and inclusion efforts nationwide. 

DeSantis, who as governor has made it his mission to tamp down discussions — in both schools and workplaces — about systemic inequality and marginalized groups, made his vow during an interview Monday with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. 

“Yes, of course, you don’t discriminate against a racial minority,” DeSantis said. (Pro tip: Humane, sensible people normally don’t follow such a phrase with a caveat.)

“But you also have to look at corporate America, government, academia, how they are wielding things like DEI in a discriminatory manner against other people,” he said. “And so we will say no tolerance for discrimination of all kind, regardless of whether you’re in the majority or the minority.”

This type of revanchist word salad has become DeSantis’ trademark. I tried to ponder examples of a “majority” group being subjected to systemic unfairness, and the best I could come up with is the Electoral College. 

Republican officials across the country have put DEI efforts in their crosshairs.

Republican officials across the country have put DEI in their crosshairs. And DeSantis’ attempt to frame such efforts as dangerous fits within the ongoing crusade in the conservative movement. DeSantis even signed a bill banning DEI programs at Florida’s public colleges.

Here are the facts, though. 

Diversity, equity and inclusion programs are used by institutions, such as businesses and universities, to ensure these spaces are welcoming to people from various backgrounds and with various experiences. The resulting conversations can center on gender bias, racial bias, accessibility for people with disabilities, religious tolerance, how to make businesses better for veterans, and more. 

If DeSantis becomes president and sends the Justice Department after DEI programs, it would effectively turn the department’s Civil Rights Division on its head. The division typically focuses on areas such as protecting voting rights, preventing housing inequality, and investigating potential hate crimes. It comes as no surprise that someone who frames his self-declared war on “wokeness” as comparable to World War II also thinks the agency that combats bigotry should target those trying to end it.

As governor, DeSantis signed into law the so-called Stop WOKE Act, which significantly curbs classroom and workplace discussions about discrimination. If you’re a frequent reader of this blog, you may remember that I’ve termed such statutes “sad white people bills,” given that their apparent purpose is to coddle white people and shelter them from conversations some of them may not enjoy. 

And, of course, DeSantis signed a bigoted law banning classroom discussions about gender identity and sexual orientation as well. 

The absurdity of the governor’s effort to restrict diversity conversations was best described by a judge last year who blocked parts of the Stop WOKE Act from taking effect. 

“Recently, Florida has seemed like a First Amendment upside down,” U.S. District Judge Mark Walker wrote in a ruling last August. “Normally, the First Amendment bars the state from burdening speech, while private actors may burden speech freely. But in Florida, the First Amendment apparently bars private actors from burdening speech, while the state may burden speech freely.”

By the sound of it, DeSantis wants to take that anti-democratic plan and make it national.




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