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The ‘Anti-Woke’ Movement in America Ruining DEI

Conservatives in the USA continue to pushback against initiatives striving to fight discrimination.

Credit: Shutterstock / Vitalii Vodolazskyi

With a bombardment of constant negative news and politics, especially in the United States, it can be difficult to weed out what to pay attention to. 

Often significant issues get overlooked when overshadowed in the media. But these issues’ impact is vast and important to pay attention to.  

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the USA is a concept that’s making waves within the political spectrum. The gripes can mainly be found from conservatives, who have made moves to eliminate such programs.

What is DEI?

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs center on addressing inequities of historically marginalized groups in a corporation or educational institution. These initiatives push for equality for all, which is why it becomes scary when authoritative figures are attempting to snatch that away. 

For schools, DEI partially means establishing curriculums and policies that seek to prohibit discrimination and enhance learning for all. For the workforce, DEI means giving all people the chance to thrive on the job by evaluating how a company treats marginalized groups.

DEI encourages organizations to implement training, policies and practices that work to ensure a safer environment for all. At the end of it all, DEI programs look to support those historically underrepresented, from sexuality to ability to race.

They are rooted in 1960s anti-discrimination legislation and continue to work to protect people from facing inequality. Without DEI, we as a country revert back to old, hateful ways. Every initiative runs differently, but ultimately they all have that same goal in mind.

The Conservative Pushback

While 2020 kicked off vital conversations about race in relation to George Floyd’s murder, as the years have drawn on, we seem to be taking steps back from the very issues. 

People seem to focus on the idea of “wokeness” and how this apparent movement is ruining the country.

Public figures such as Elon Musk have spoken on the subject, ascribing to conservative ideals by tweeting last month that “DEI must die.”

But it’s conservative governors, including Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas, who drive the political battle through efforts that seek to harm DEI initiatives. 

(Left) Shutterstock/Andrew Cline, (Right) Shutterstock/lev radin

For many conservative politicians, a push against “anti-woke” policies, especially in schools, has become the forefront of campaigns.

One notable player, American First Legal, was formed by former Trump White House advisor Stephen Miller. The organization has been known to bring lawsuits against corporations for their DEI acts.

“America First Legal is radically committed to equal treatment under the law for all Americans,” Gene Hamilton, general counsel and vice president of America First Legal, said in a statement to The Washington Post. “Advocates for race-based programs—whether in the employment context, college admissions, contract-making, or anywhere else in society—have made the decision to engage in the very racial discrimination they claim to oppose.”

It’s race that provokes the most tension surrounding conversations about DEI, and making these conversations all the more important to have.

One Question: Why?

The move to oppose DEI trickles down to a fear of acknowledging one’s own institutionalized privilege. Instead, there’s a need from certain groups to feel or act “oppressed” when genuinely marginalized groups speak out. We see this with LGBTQ+ advocacy and in the Black Lives Matter Movement and now in this continuous flack against DEI. It’s a dangerous headspace that plagues people within the US and prohibits protection from those who need it most.

“Dominance and privilege–understandably, those things are hard to give up,” Erica Foldy, a professor at NYU, told ABC News. “For the greater good, of not just a workplace, but for our country, our democracy, we have to become a country that equally and passionately welcomes all the people who live in the country.”

So What’s Happening With DEI?

At his inauguration on Jan. 3, 2023, DeSantis officially stated, “We must ensure that our institutions of higher learning are focused on academic excellence and the pursuit of truth, not the imposition of trendy ideologies.”

He has since barred spending on DEI programs in schools with a resound declaration that “Florida is where ‘woke’ goes to die.”

This ideology has spread to numerous states all over the nation, impacting not only schools but DEI programs in the workforce as well.

According to the Washington Post, DEI jobs have shrunk by 8% thus far in 2024. This slash in jobs can be found in corporations like Zoom and X.

While, for some companies, it’s a reflection of over-hiring, many seem to instead be following the lines of conservative politicians who are calling for an end to such programs. Companies are pulling back and rather becoming dependent on consultants than their own DEI hires.

The National Education Association notes that 65 anti-DEI bills have been introduced since 2023, with eight passing.

What Can You Do?

Credit: Shutterstock/Derek Hatfield

As we enter 2024, one can only imagine what else will be implemented related to the ideas of diversity, equity and inclusion. With our current political climate, it will most likely be a push to diminish even more programs related to DEI.

Ultimately, this drive aspires to continue to put down marginalized groups and to take the United States five steps back. If the current DEI programs aren’t working, then we need to find a better solution—not just eliminate them completely. The USA is a place that prides itself on being diverse, yet still can’t seem to protect those diverse groups as “land of the free” stands only for a certain group of people.     

With the US presidential election approaching, we must take care to see where candidates’ positions rest with such important ideas like DEI.  

As the newest generation to be voting, we need to be cognizant of such movements and use the right to vote to bring awareness and combat harmful ideologies. We’re the foundation of what’s to come within the US in the future, and we have to work to protect that very future.

Written By

Kaitlyn Mahan (she/her) is currently a freshman at Columbia College Chicago double majoring in creative writing and journalism. She predominantly focuses on prominent news coverage both nation and world wide and hopes to pursue a career in news publication writing.

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