My dear friend Ann Richards used to remind us, “if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” These wise words from one of only two women to ever govern Texas are particularly relevant as state leaders work to shut people of color, women, LGBTQ+ people, disabled people, and others out of our state’s democracy and vital institutions.
Instead of working to make life better for everyday Texans, state leaders have made attacks on our state’s diversity a top priority for the 88th Texas Legislative Session. Despite the opposition of constituents, civil rights organizations, and legislators of color, they’re calling for an end to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs at state agencies and public universities.
DEI programs strengthen our public institutions with a workforce that reflects the diverse people and communities these institutions serve while increasing productivity, effectiveness, and innovation. With 66% of Texas’ enrollment in public institutions of higher education comprised of non-white students, DEI programs are critically important to our state.
But it’s not just DEI programs; they’re also escalating attacks on academic freedom in a denialist effort to whitewash history and subverting local elections in counties with large, diverse populations like Harris County.
This is part of a broader national strategy working to erase many of our community’s hard-fought rights and freedoms. Extremists are banning books and changing school curriculums that don’t fit their worldview. They are denying women and trans people control over their own bodies, health, and future. They are coming after voting rights, passing laws that make it easier to subvert elections and harder for people of color, youth, and others to vote. From the classroom to the boardroom to the halls of government, they’re doing everything they can to deny diverse people a seat at the table and a voice in the process.
We won’t let them roll back our rights. In Harris County this week, we passed a firm resolution condemning this effort and empowering our county attorney to explore federal action to stop these attacks on diversity.
In the third most populous county in the United States and the most diverse county in the nation, it will take all of us working together to protect our rights, freedoms, and our seat at the table.