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Alabama’s Governor Ends DEI Programs at Public Schools, Negatively Impacts Black Students

Alabama took a step backward after Gov. Kay Ivey signed a sweeping bill that bans state funds for  diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs at public entities, including public schools and higher education.

SB129 would also “authorize certain public entities to discipline or terminate employees or contractors who violate this act.”

In a statement, Ivey provided flawed reasoning as to why she signed the bill.

“My administration has and will continue to value Alabama’s rich diversity, however, I refuse to allow a few bad actors on college campuses – or wherever else for that matter – to go under the acronym of DEI, using taxpayer funds, to push their liberal political movement counter to what the majority of Alabamians believe,” Ivey said.

Ivey is presenting DEI as if it’s only a political issue, when it impacts real lives. Alabama already suffers from some of the biggest racial disparities in the nation. According to Huntsville’s Desegregation Advisory Committee (DAC), 93 percent of Black students are not proficient in math vs. 53 percent of White students.

In terms of economics, Black children suffered average poverty rates of 41.9 percent vs. 16.5 percent for white children, according to a study by Alabama Kids Count.

Those numbers will likely increase following Ivey’s signing of SB129.

But while Ivey and her Republican counterparts are against DEI in most aspects, they have yet to speak out against DEI on the football field and basketball courts. University of Alabama and Auburn University have two of the most prominent sports programs in the nation. There biggest sports, football and basketball, are led by Black student-athletes.

Last month Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin wrote in a Facebook post that Black parents should discourage their athletic kids from attending schools in Alabama if the bill was passed.

“Would you be cool with your child playing at schools where diversity among staff is actively being discouraged?” Woodfin wrote. “Although I’m the biggest Bama fan, I have no problem organizing Black parents and athletes to attend other institutions outside of the state where diversity and inclusion are prioritized.”

If Black parents and student-athletes took a stand against Ivey’s passage of SB129 by either boycotting or discouraging other athletes from attending the schools, Alabama would be impacted tremendously. The Alabama Department of Tourism has estimated in the past that the overall economic impact of college football in Alabama exceeds $200 million. If all Black athletes decided against attending any public school in Alabama, it would be catastrophic to the sports programs in the state.

But it should not all fall on the Black athletes, white head coaches should take a stand against the dismantling of DEI too.

Former Alabama football coach Nick Saban recently shared his thoughts on NIL, a program that allows college athletes to receive benefits based on their name and likeness, during a testimony on Capitol Hill. Saban spoke about how NIL has changed the landscape of college athletics. However, it would’ve been a stronger stance if Saban made a point on how the ending of DEI programs could impact Black players, the ones who allowed him to win multiple championships and receive career earnings of over $124 million.

Moreover, Alabama’s basketball coach Nate Oats has an opportunity to compete for a national title thanks to his star athletes who are Black. But yet, Oats has not spoken out about the passing of the bill as the team heads to the NCAA tournament.

Overall, the attack on DEI stems from bigots who believe that Black people are given an unfair advantage through such programs. However, DEI only seeks to remedy the legal racism that Black people endured for centuries in this country, creating conditions where racial disparities still exist.

Ivey and her counterparts who are against DEI should be taught a lesson that begins with Black athletes and white coaches who bring in millions to the state each year.

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