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New Alabama law pushes back against DEI curriculum

Lee Hawkins May 1, 2024
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A new Alabama law limits publicly funded institutions from endorsing or mandating DEI programs. Getty Images

New Alabama law pushes back against DEI curriculum

Lee Hawkins May 1, 2024
Heard on:
A new Alabama law limits publicly funded institutions from endorsing or mandating DEI programs. Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
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A new law in Alabama that restricts diversity, equity and inclusion curriculum in public institutions has just been signed by Gov. Kay Ivey. The law will prohibit publicly funded institutions from endorsing or mandating DEI programs and goes into effect Oct. 1.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin is now calling on Black athletes to boycott playing sports at Alabama colleges and universities in hopes the potential economic loss will lead to the law’s repeal. 

The University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide football team has won 18 national football championships and brings in around $200 million annually to its home city of Tuscaloosa. The threat of losing that money is just the kind of economic pressure Woodfin hopes to put on the governor.

Woodfin is asking parents of Black and minority athletes to avoid playing for institutions in Alabama and other states promoting anti-DEI legislation. He’s also calling for more vocal opposition from Alabama students and university officials.

“Don’t tell me you want, as a coach recruiter, you come in my living room, and you want my Black son to play on your football field or on your basketball court, but you don’t want diversity of thought in professors or programs to support my child outside of that football field or outside of the basketball court. So why should they come?” Woodfin said.

Alabama’s law restricting DEI curriculum is part of a broader national trend. Across the country, almost 90 laws since 2021 have passed aimed at restricting education on race, sex and gender at K-12 and university-level schools, The Washington Post found. These latest measures target DEI programs and classes in higher education. 

Ivey said in a written statement that she wants to prevent taxpayer funds from being used to push a “liberal political movement counter to what the majority of Alabamians believe.”

Critics argue that such legislation undermines academic freedom and the comprehensive understanding of history, while Ivey and other proponents say it’s a return to essential academic values that can stamp out rising ideological division.

The University of Alabama has a long tradition of generating revenue based on the labor and talents of Black Americans. Even before its official founding in 1831, the university began enslaving Black people, buying its first slave, a man named Ben, in 1828.

The school used Ben and many others as free labor to construct buildings and support its day-to-day operations. It rented people from local enslavers, who served the university for decades.

After emancipation, the state of Alabama continued to forbid Blacks from attending University of Alabama and other institutions for another century under Jim Crow segregation laws. 

Woodfin is admittedly against the law. “Legislators, they have to reckon with themselves of the unintended consequences of creating this stupid law and infringes upon not just Black people, but every other group you can think of,” he said.

“Women, our immigrant community, those who are handicapped or deaf or other forms of hearing impairment or blind or insert whatever disability that exists or veterans,” Woodfin said. “DEI is not just in support of Black people. When we talk about diversity, when we talk about equity, and when we talk about inclusion, we’re talking about every minority group.”

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