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Black and Latino lawmakers slam Gov. Abbott for order limiting diversity considerations in hiring.

Updated: Feb 20, 2023

Members of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus held a press conference Tuesday to speak out against Gov. Greg Abbott's order asking state agencies to eliminate diversity policies from their hiring practices.

Black and Latino lawmakers decried Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent order to Texas universities and state agencies to strike down diversity, equity and inclusion policies from their hiring practices.

At a press conference Tuesday morning at the state Capitol, lawmakers in the Texas Legislative Black Caucus and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, representatives with the Texas chapter of the NAACP and faith leaders across the state said the governor’s assertion that DEI policies are illegal is incorrect, a “lie” and a “diversion” from addressing the issues facing Texans.

They also called on the National Football League, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and the NCAA to not host championship games in the state until the governor rescinds his guidance to agencies and universities.

Lawmakers said Abbott’s values do not reflect those of Texas and accused the governor of using people of color in a political fight with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to be the most “Trumpian” politician.

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

In a memo sent to state agencies Feb. 6 and first reported by The Texas Tribune, Abbott’s chief of staff, Gardner Pate, said that diversity, equity and inclusion policies used to screen or vet job candidates are illegal and state agency heads have a “duty” to follow the law. Since then, some labor and civil rights attorneys have said the governor’s office is mischaracterizing anti-discrimination laws.

On Monday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick also announced that eliminating “discriminatory diversity, equity and inclusion policies in higher education” is one of his top legislative priorities.

Reynolds called these priorities misguided and an appeal to a far-right base in the Republican Party.

“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.”

Diversity, equity and inclusion policies are developed to provide guidance in workplaces, government offices and college campuses on how to increase representation and foster an environment that emphasizes fair treatment to groups that have historically faced discrimination. DEI policies can include providing resources for underrepresented groups like people with disabilities, LGBTQ people and veterans. In hiring, they can include setting diversity goals or setting thresholds to ensure diverse candidate pools.

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

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