The Texas Gov is slammed for cutting diversity hiring.
The Texas Gov is slammed for cutting diversity hiring. Photo: Getty Images.

Abbott’s call to axe diversity hiring policies called out by state Black and Latino lawmakers

Lawmakers in the Legislative Black Caucus & the Mexican American Legislative Caucus slammed his assertion that the use of such policies in hiring is illegal.


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Black and Latino Texas lawmakers showed no love on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, as they condemned Governor Greg Abbott’s recent order to state agencies and universities to kill diversity hiring policies — and his assertion that they are illegal — in a press conference at the state capital in Austin. 

Lawmakers in the Texas Black Legislative Caucus, the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, and representatives from the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and faith leaders across the Lone Star State, were a part of the press conference. 

“We will not be complicit in his attempt to use minorities as pawns for his political game,” said Democratic Rep. Ron Reynolds, chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus.

They called the governor’s assertions a “lie” and a “diversion” from the real issues needing attention and requested that all NBA, MLB, NFL, and NCAA games in the state be suspended until Abbott stops. 

“These offices don’t exist to be racist against white people,” said Democratic State Rep. Sheryl Cole. “They exist to foster, affirm, engage and strengthen diverse communities because ultimately our diversity is our strength.”

Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas NAACP, said Abbott's efforts are taking Texas back closer to "the Jim Crow era."

“We won’t let Gov. Abbott turn back the clock. We stand on the shoulder of giants…and ask our colleagues to join us in calling out this anti-DEI agenda,” added Reynolds. 

Abbott’s Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick is on board with the new measures, as on Monday, Feb. 13, he announced a list of 30 bills self-labeled as his legislative priorities. 

Along with property tax relief and increasing natural gas plants for further reliability of the power grid, he also laid out his more conservative plans that would ban certain books in schools, restrict transgender student athlete participation in collegiate sports and end gender-transition treatment for youth. 

He added that slashing all “discriminatory diversity, equity and inclusion policies in higher education” as another huge priority — priorities that Reynolds called misguided and merely an attempt to grab appeal from a far-right base. 

“They are code for anti-Black, anti-Asian, anti-LGBTQ, the majority of the state,” Reynolds said. “They are slapping us in the face and saying you’re not welcome here anymore.”

The three-term serving Governor has been a regular on national news in recent years with his Trump-like views on issues, specifically immigration and the border. 

He has been the driving force along with former Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to transport migrants to Democratic sanctuary cities, including Philadelphia, New York City, and D.C. 

Abbott is now calling on all state agencies and state universities to slash all diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in their hiring practices — calling it “illegal.” 

In a memo written Mon., Feb. 5 and obtained by the Texas Tribune, Abbott’s Chief of Staff Gardner Pate told all agency and university leaders that besides it being an illegal act, such DEI initiatives, despite being policies that protect the historically marginalized, discriminate against “certain” demographics that Pate did not specify. 

“The innocuous sounding notion of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) has been manipulated to push policies that expressly favor some demographic groups to the detriment of others,” Pate wrote.

Pate added that DEI hiring practices violate federal and state employment laws, adding that hiring can solely be based on nothing “other than merit.” It is the latest effort by GOP leaders rallying against policies and academic disciplines considered “woke.” 

“Rebranding this employment discrimination as ‘DEI’ doesn’t make the practice any less illegal,” Pate wrote. “Further, when a state agency spends taxpayer dollars to fund offices, departments, or employee positions dedicated to promoting forbidden DEI initiatives, such actions are also inconsistent with the law.”

DEI policies are guidelines in workplaces, government offices and college campuses on how to further increase representation and fair treatment to historically marginalized communities. The policies can provide resources for people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ community and veterans. When it comes to hiring practices, it can mean setting diversity goals. 

Texas university and state agency leaders have remained mum on the issue since receiving the letter from the governor’s office. University of Houston System Chancellor Renu Khator said the letter was a “reminder” to follow the law. 

Reynolds said that higher education leaders are afraid to come out publicly, saying that he’s received many texts from people afraid to speak out in fear of retaliation but expressed appreciation for the caucus’ concern.

“They feel like they’re going to be the target and they may lose their job or lose funding,” he said.

The two caucuses that met on Valentine’s Day also argued that the ever-changing workforce is demanding more diverse workplaces and employers as the state also grows in diversity. 

“If we remove these opportunities by removing DEI, where will that take our economy?” said Democratic Rep. Victoria Neave Criado. 

“Considering millennials make up the majority of the workforce (39.4% as of 2020), and Gen Z-ers are the most diverse generation in history, it's increasingly important for our state agencies to focus on creating a culture and representation,” said Reynolds. 


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