February 2024 Newsletter: Fending Off Attacks on Black History

Fending Off Attacks on Black History

It’s hard to fully honor Black History Month when politicians are outlawing teaching Black history. The backlash against diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and anti-racism continues to threaten learning and honest discourse in public institutions. 

Education Week reports that since 2021, 44 states have introduced bills or other actions to restrict or ban teaching about critical race theory or limit how educators can talk about racism and sexism in schools. 18 states have actually imposed such bans

A number of states have introduced or signed laws prohibiting DEI programming and initiatives in public higher education, often with misleading language pinning DEI as divisive and discriminatory, and falsely accusing any education that explores the history of systemic racism and oppression as teaching that one group is “inherently superior or inferior” or that “anyone should be made to feel guilty for acts committed by members of their race or sex, or that meritocracy is inherently racist or sexist.”  These quotes from various bills indicate the way in which the tenets of DEI work are often warped to represent the exact opposite of what they are intended to be, causing confusion and sowing fear among the public, which is exactly what the enemies of DEI want.

Florida and Texas have actually signed their bills into law. Texas’ new anti-DEI bill SB17 went into effect this month and led to confusion, anger, and significant loss of support for historically marginalized students. Similar bans are being considered in Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Utah. One of the most recent and egregious examples of political gamesmanship occurred in December in Wisconsin, where the UW Board of Regents was given the ultimatum by Republican lawmakers of losing $800 million for staff raises and needed construction projects unless it voted for massive cuts to DEI programming and staff. 

Ironically, these regulations are in direct opposition to public opinion.  A 2022 Quinnipiac University poll found that two-thirds of Americans do not believe they were taught a full and accurate history of African Americans. Furthermore,  a poll conducted by the Black Education Research Center found that 73 percent of Americans surveyed support a Black studies curriculum that teaches children about early African civilizations, the Black experience in America, and the contributions and accomplishments of African Americans. 

In essence, anti-DEI efforts are unpopular, based on mistruth, and completely grounded in partisan politics rather than educational integrity. What can leaders do to face down the backlash in educational institutions? Here are a few strategies currently being employed by educational leaders:

  • Build coalitions with peers. Education for All and the Champions for Higher Education are two examples of groups of college presidents coming together to address the growing anti-DEI movement. Building bipartisan coalitions is especially important to ensure longevity.
  • Engage with elected officials. NASPA has created the Freedom 2 Learn Engagement Toolbox to convene meetings and engage through social media with political and educational officials in a meaningful way. Using personal storytelling and sharing views directly with influencers is a powerful tool to connect and be heard
  • Develop solid and strategic communications. Make communicating support for DEI an imperative and define what that actually means to dispel myths and misdirection. Collectively curate responses so that all leaders and influencers can center around a common, compelling message.

The work can and must continue in the face of backlash, and it begins with all of us recognizing our individual and collective power to enact change. 

Maria Morukian
Maria Morukian
Founder and President

 


MSM Global Updates

  • Roger Moreano – Two Years!
    Celebrating two years of excellence with Roger Moreano, Director of Strategy and Innovation at MSM Global Consulting. Roger’s profound understanding of history, culture, and justice has significantly contributed to our strategic success. His intelligence, thoughtfulness, and kindness inspire our team daily. Beyond his professional prowess, Roger’s well-timed humor uplifts spirits when needed most. Grateful for two remarkable years and excited for many more with Roger at the helm of innovation. Cheers to our invaluable colleague!
  • MSM at Washington and Lee
    MSM Global Consulting made a significant impact at Washington and Lee University earlier this month, where we had the privilege of presenting to law students. Our focus was on empowering individuals to engage in courageous conversations about racial equity. During the session, we delved into the historical and systemic contexts of racial inequity, exploring their profound impact on both communities and institutions. Our ultimate goal was to encourage participants to commit to actionable steps that apply a racial equity lens to their experiences and behaviors at Washington and Lee University. It was an enriching experience, fostering meaningful dialogue and a commitment to positive change.
  • Last month, MSM Global hosted…
    a private screening in Washington, DC of Ava DuVernay’s acclaimed new movie ORIGIN, based on Isabel Wilkerson’s bestselling book
    Caste: The Origins of our Discontents. The film explores the interconnectedness of power, hierarchy, and systemic dehumanization in social structures, drawing parallels between the Black experience in America, the Dalits in India, and Jewish people in Nazi Germany. Instead of a straightforward adaptation, DuVernay turns the book into an investigative, fictionalized drama, following the character Isabel Wilkerson as she uncovers these connections amid personal challenges. Learn more about the film here.
    Thank you to all who joined us last month! We’re poised to continue the work and conversation.

Culture Stew

“A Dog Called Diversity” with Lisa Mulligan
In our most recent episode, Maria and Roger are joined by Lisa Mulligan. We delve into Lisa’s extensive experience over the past decade. Lisa has been instrumental in supporting the development and work of employee network groups, addressing issues such as gender, LGBTQIA+, race, and disability. The conversation covers Lisa’s role in devising D&I strategy, implementing initiatives, and responding to race discrimination, including the impactful work related to Black Lives Matter. Listen to the podcast here. (Remember to write a review on your favorite podcast platforms.)

MSM Global Gallery 

  • Resistance to Racial Integration
    Black History is American history. In this short two-minute clip from the Equal Justice Initiative, we learn about the history of White resistance to school integration and how this legacy continues to drive the racial disparities we see in schools today.
  • EJI: The Legacy of Racial Injustice (youtube.com)
    In another clip from the Equal Justice Initiative, we learn about the history of anti-Blackness and racial injustice that Black communities have fought to overcome for over 400 years. 
  • The Harvest: Integrating Mississippi’s Schools | Full Documentary | AMERICAN EXPERIENCE | PBS
    This powerful two-hour PBS documentary from the series “The American Experience” looks at the history of public school integration in Mississippi following the Supreme Court’s order to immediately integrate its schools in 1970. Many of today’s public school racial inequities in Mississippi and around America are rooted in the hostile racial intolerance of the past.


Content For Your Down Time

Here are some recommended videos, articles and books for your down time.

Lies About Black People: How to Combat Racist Stereotypes and Why it Matters by Dr. Omekongo Dibinga is a timely and indispensable guide for those seeking to navigate the complexities of racial bias and inequality. Dr. Dibinga, a seasoned diversity and inclusion expert, skillfully dismantles harmful stereotypes about the Black community through a combination of personal anecdotes, historical inquiry, and analysis of contemporary events. The book not only exposes pervasive lies, such as the criminalization of Black individuals, but also provides readers with practical tools for self-reflection and confronting their own biases. With a focus on re-education and the importance of dismantling harmful narratives, Dr. Dibinga’s work is an invaluable resource for anyone committed to fostering understanding, taking action, and contributing to the ongoing fight for racial equality in our society.

Chain-Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adejei-Brenyah- Chain-Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah presents a harrowing yet thought-provoking exploration of America’s private prison system through the captivating narrative of gladiators Loretta Thurwar and Hamara “Hurricane Staxxx” Stacker. Within the confines of CAPE, or Criminal Action Penal Entertainment, Adjei-Brenyah unveils a dystopian society where prisoners vie for freedom in death matches before a captivated audience. The novel skillfully weaves together the stories of the gladiators, protestors, and corporate entities, offering a kaleidoscopic view of systemic racism, unchecked capitalism, and mass incarceration. As Thurwar battles for both her own liberation and the preservation of her fellow Links’ humanity, “Chain-Gang All-Stars” serves as a poignant and excoriating commentary on the true meaning of freedom within the American prison landscape.

 

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