May 3, 2023 - Politics

Youngkin's war on DEI

Photo illustration of Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin with lines radiating from him.

Photo Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios; Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Gov. Youngkin's administration is drawing outrage after his chief diversity officer declared "DEI is dead."

Catch up fast: Martin D. Brown, Youngkin's chief of diversity, equity and inclusion, told faculty and staff at Virginia Military Institute that diversity is the "wrong mission," as first reported by the Washington Post last week.

  • "We’re not going to bring that cow up anymore. It’s dead. It was mandated by the General Assembly, but this governor has a different philosophy of civil discourse, civility, treating — living the golden rule, right?"

Driving the news: Since then, calls for Brown's resignation have come from the NAACP of Virginia, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus and the Virginia Asian American and Pacific Islander Caucus.

  • They argue his remarks make it clear he has no intention of fulfilling his duties outlined in state code of promoting "inclusive practices across state government."

The latest: Former Democratic Gov. Doug Wilder, who has praised Youngkin in the past, said Youngkin should fire Brown for "not doing his job," per the Times-Dispatch.

Why it matters: It's certainly unusual to hear a chief diversity officer rail against diversity.

  • The remarks offer a window into how Youngkin, who has spoken out against equity initiatives throughout his term, is handling an office charged with promoting them in all levels of state government.

What they're saying: Youngkin's administration is defending Martin, accusing critics of trying to "cancel him."

  • "Governor Youngkin will continue to advance equal opportunities — not equal outcomes — for all Virginians," said Youngkin's press secretary, Macaulay Porter, in a statement.

Between the lines: Youngkin has said he opposes equity initiatives because they result in lowered standards in an effort to achieve equal outcomes.

  • Supporters of DEI initiatives, including Wilder, have said Youngkin and other critics on the right misunderstand the concept of equity, which is more commonly defined as an effort to recognize and address disadvantages posed by decades of discrimination.
  • "There is a long history of exclusion and discrimination and racism and sexism that makes it quite difficult for different people to achieve or even to gain these sorts of opportunities," Jatia Wrighten, a political science professor at VCU, told WVTF.

Meanwhile, a review of state mandated DEI reports by VPM News found the number of women and people of color appointed to state boards and commissions dropped under Youngkin.


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