By LaKeshia N. Myers
America is slowly, but surely, becoming more diverse. This has been confirmed for years by census statisticians and has created a wave of panic for some whites who are afraid of living in a majority BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) country. This level of alarm is evidenced by legislation presented in statehouses across the country. Bills aimed at restricting access to the ballot box, redistricting, restrictions to reproductive health care and even how subjects can be taught in schools. The panic reminds me of a statement made by Rev. William Barber, where he said, “we no longer fight Jim Crow, we’re fighting ‘James E. Crow. Esq.’”—meaning the Jim Crow of the segregated South has now rebranded himself. The bills passed by the Wisconsin legislature last week are evidence of this.
Both AB411 and AB414 are bills in search of problems. The authors claim the bills are against the teaching of Critical Race Theory—a legal doctrine that has been consistently mischaracterized—but they are in effect the centerpieces of a concerted GOP effort to roll back the clock and return us to a time when racial inequity, sexual assault and Eurocentric ideas were commonplace. I wonder if my colleagues realize the dread these bills cause for their constituents. Do they not realize that dismantling sexual assault training sends a clear message to women that our voices could be silenced in the workplace? Or that it would be okay for executives to chase their secretaries around their desks for kicks? Do they realize that racially insensitive jokes or name calling could again become commonplace and breed a hostile work environment?
Diversity is the bedrock of our country and one of greatest sustaining forces of our future. When we truly do the work that is required to hear, listen and reflect personally on race then and only then can progress begin. Race, for many is a difficult subject to discuss, primarily because it forces us to grapple with the fact that for much of our existence, American ideals and policies have often been mismatched. Racism is a sin that we are on a constant path to rectify even today; through acknowledgment, acceptance and changes in policy.
I urge my colleagues to face their fears; do their work, and move past the mythological sensibilities of American idealism. Equity work is an active practice, it requires consistent participation, ardent listening, and becoming comfortable with uncomfortable conversations. Transformation doesn’t happen overnight—it takes a lifetime of adjustment and inclusivity.