NewsDEI Backlash Has Made Companies Afraid Of Republican Lawsuits

DEI Backlash Has Made Companies Afraid Of Republican Lawsuits

DEI initiatives are often positioned by conservative activists like Chris Rufo and organizations like the Claremont Institute and the Manhattan Institute as “radical.” Other mainline Republicans argue that DEI is basically “reverse racism” against white people and both rank and file Republicans and the activist wing of the party have been pushing for “race-neutral” approaches to policy, which are actually not race-neutral, but end up assisting in discriminatory outcomes.

“It’s going to become a hot-button issue this year,” Taylor claimed. “We’re already seeing companies go away from it.”

As Vox reported, the genesis of DEI is actually the Civil Rights Movement. Several groups that had a vested interest in ensuring that public schools, housing, workplaces, and hiring practices were adequately desegregated after centuries of discrimination against Black people in American society put the term in the public lexicon, as well as in the vocabularies of both major political parties. 

Therefore, the backlash to DEI is unofficially another branch of the conservative culture wars; DEI initiatives are often positioned by conservative activists like Chris Rufo and organizations like the Claremont Institute and the Manhattan Institute as “radical.” Other mainline Republicans argue that DEI is basically “reverse racism” against white people, and both rank-and-file Republicans and the activist wing of the party have been pushing for “race-neutral” approaches to policy, which are actually not race-neutral but end up assisting in discriminatory outcomes. 

The Fearless Fund attempts to level the playing field for funding businesses led by Black women and other women of color. It provides them access to capital in the beginning stages of their funding, often helping those businesses scale up. Their website states, “Fearless Fund invests in women of color-led businesses seeking pre-seed, seed level or series A financing. Our mission is to bridge the gap in venture capital funding for women of color founders building scalable, growth-aggressive companies. Fearless Fund is built by women of color for women of color.”

Major companies like Disney and Starbucks have not changed their diversity, inclusion, and equity initiatives; instead, they have opted to fight and win court battles challenging their policies.

Other companies have been changing their eligibility requirements to avoid action from conservative activist groups. Pfizer, one of the manufacturers of the COVID-19 vaccine, adjusted its requirements for a fellowship program designed for college students of Black, Indigenous, and Latinx descent. The pharmaceutical company dropped the race-based requirements of its fellowship despite a judge dropping a lawsuit against the program. Similar to the challenge to the Fearless Fund, they face legal action from a conservative nonprofit, Do No Harm, which maintains that the change from Pfizer does nothing to change the program’s actual goals.

In an ironic twist, many of the lawsuits which are challenging these diversity programs hinge on a very specific reading of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which prohibits racial discrimination in hiring contracts. The original intent and spirit of the law was to protect formerly enslaved people from being discriminated against during Reconstruction, but conservatives are using it to argue that programs designed to benefit Black and other people of color are skirting the law.

The American Alliance for Equal Rights, Stephen Miller’s group, America First Legal, has been busy challenging DEI initiatives using similar logic. Miller’s group has been sending letters to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission targeting everyone from American Airlines to Macy’s to IBM and maintains a list of “Woke Companies” on its website to whom it has complained about. 

Joelle Emerson, the co-founder and CEO of Paradigm, a company focused on the application of diversity, equity, and inclusion in business, contextualized these attacks on DEI in an op-ed earlier in January for Fortune, writing, “While it’s not surprising to see the pendulum swing back on DEI after two years of intense focus (throughout history, progress on the part of marginalized groups has often been met with backlash), it’s on all of us to decide how far it swings. The more that we can unite behind shared beliefs, the greater chances we’ll have in fighting back against a coordinated campaign that seeks to divide our nation and erase the civil rights progress we’ve made over the last two generations.”

RELATED CONTENT: Navigating DEI Challenges: Addressing Complaints And Lawsuits In The Pursuit Of Racial Equality

Source: Black Enterprise

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