Sherry Sylvester

9th Street And Congress

What is DEI, really?

The Texas Senate just passed Senate Bill 17, which will require Texas colleges and universities to close their offices dedicated to “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion,” (DEI).

Senate Bill 17 will also prohibit universities from requiring applicants for teaching and administrative jobs to provide a so-called “diversity statement” that is free of any offensive words like, “merit” and “color-blind.” It also prohibits mandatory DEI training.

Senator Brandon Creighton’s, R-Conroe, leadership on this legislation – a priority for Lt. Governor Dan Patrick – was remarkable in many ways, not the least of which is that DEI offices at Texas colleges and universities, like DEI offices nationally, rarely provide any information on what they actually do.

The truth is buried deep in the website of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education. They describe their mission as “engaging in ongoing ways to incorporate alternative narratives in the curriculum and provide robust learning opportunities on the history of racism, colonization, and conquest on how higher education and other sectors of society have been complicit in maintaining systems of privilege.”

DEI officers are working to ensure that every administrator, every faculty member and every student believes these “alternative narratives” which include the notion that America was really founded in 1619 when the first African Americans arrived in Virginia, and that the American Revolution and the Texas Revolution were fought to maintain slavery. The Pilgrims didn’t colonize America for religious liberty, they came here to conquer the native tribes, just like Columbus did two hundred years before. There’s no end to these “alternative narratives,” some of which are linked to a part of our history and some of which are pure fabrications.

Underlying these “alternative narratives” is the bedrock belief of DEI that racism is not an individual act of evil, it is a structural system, geared toward preserving white supremacy.

Higher education is part of this systemic racism, according to DEI’s assessment. So is free-market capitalism, America’s legal system rooted in English common law, medicine, virtually everything American, including our values of achievement, hard-work, equality and independence.

According to DEI, the system is rigged and DEI officers say to “mitigate racism,” they must dismantle all those systems and overthrow those values.

That’s why an applicant for a biology professor job at Texas Tech was disqualified when he said he treated all his students equally. Equality is not a DEI value. Equality under the law, the principle that undergirds all our civil rights legislation, has been replaced in DEI by equity, which is about redistributing resources. That’s why many conservatives draw a direct line from DEI to Marxism.

The bottom line is that DEI advocates believe all white Americans are racist, whether they know it or not. Many non-white Americans can be unconsciously racist too, if they buy into “white values” like hard work, self-reliance and even being on time. Following a schedule, according to DEI advocates, is a white thing.

Viewing the world through that DEI prism creates a new standard of inequality. Students are either privileged perpetrators of white supremacy or victims of it. That’s what DEI teaches.

Texas has a dark history of racism – slavery, brutal reconstruction, the violence of the Jim Crow era and segregation. Every Texas public school student is taught that history so that we will never forget those awful times.

But Texas also has a history of breaking down barriers, especially when it comes to our public schools and universities. The Texas Public Policy Foundation conducted focus groups across the state last year and we found that African Americans and Hispanics do not think of themselves as victims; they think of themselves as Texans. They identify with Texas values of independence and freedom. Those who arrive at Texas universities are proud Texans – perhaps until they are hit with DEI ideology everywhere they turn, insisting that somehow the system is rigged and there’s no way they can win.

That’s why few were surprised by the Texas A&M survey that showed that in 2015, 82% of African Americans felt they belonged at the university. By 2019, after four years of DEI programs, only 55% felt they belonged.

A Baylor University study conducted in 2018 found that having a DEI program at a university had no impact on increasing minority faculty hiring. There’s no evidence that DEI helps increase successful college outcomes for minority and women students, either. And we have almost daily examples of how DEI stifles free speech, with a Stanford Law School dean’s shouting down of a federal judge being the most recent example.

Texas is not the only place where DEI is being scrutinized, and not just by conservatives. Earlier this month, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) at Cambridge held a debate entitled “Should DEI be Abolished?” Even those who were defending DEI said it had “gone off the rails.”

Texas college and university budgets and websites reveal that hundreds of DEI officers are employed at Texas institutions of higher learning and Texas taxpayers are spending millions to keep those offices open. The Texas Senate was absolutely right to vote to shut them down. The Texas House and other states should follow their lead.

Sherry Sylvester is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, and the former Senior Advisor to Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick.

9th Street And Congress

Drag Shows ARE Blackface

When Walter Wendler, president of West Texas A&M University, blocked a drag show performance on his campus, likening it to blackface,  he was excoriated by the organized LBGTQ+ community, which launched a petition calling it a “gross and abhorrent comparison of two completely different topics. It claimed Wendler was using an “incorrect definition of drag as a culture and form of performance art.”

But Wendler is right. Drag shows are essentially the same as blackface. It’s not even a close call. Here’s how the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture describes blackface:

“Minstrelsy, comedic performances of “blackness” by whites in exaggerated costumes and make-up, cannot be separated fully from the racial derision and stereotyping at its core. By distorting the features and culture of African Americans—including their looks, language, dance, deportment, and character—white Americans were able to codify whiteness across class and geopolitical lines as its antithesis.”

Change blackness to womanhood and you have a precise definition of drag—”comedic performances of women by men in exaggerated costumes and make-up…” The only difference is that most thinking people have long recognized that blackface is the essence of racism and hate. As the Smithsonian notes, it “cannot be separated from racial derision and stereotyping at its core.” Similarly, drag shows are all about misogyny and utter contempt for women.

It is inexplicable that there is so little outrage about the obvious and vicious sexism that emanates from drag queens and drag performances, but as the Dallas Morning News reports, drag shows have become part of the mainstream, popular culture.

Ignoring the hateful and belittling stereotypes of women presented by drag queens—catty, bitchy, dumb and obsessed with sex—Nancy Pelosi, the first woman ever to serve as Speaker of the U.S. House, appeared as a guest on “RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars” where she praised the men for the “joy and beauty you bring into the world.”

Both blackface and drag trace their roots to Shakespeare. Women were forbidden to act in Elizabethan times, but many believe Shakespeare’s hand-written stage directions, “DRAG,” indicated “dressed as a girl.” But nothing in Shakespeare’s works indicates a disdain for women. Juliet, Lady Macbeth, Beatrice, Viola and Cordelia weren’t stereotypes, even though they were played by men. And Shakespeare’s masterful Othello, played by white actors in blackface until modern times, reveals that he understood the evil and pain of racism.

Even using the standards of “presentism” that is so popular among the left, it is hard to see how Shakespeare’s endorsement would count much for blackface or drag. He lived in a time when slavery was not particularly controversial, and witches were still being burned.

Blackface migrated to America and took hold in the 1830s.  Jim Crow was a blackface character. According to the Smithsonian, minstrel shows including troupes of white actors performing as black people became popular after the Civil War and continued until relatively recently. They note that “The Black​ and White Minstrel Show” was a popular British television show until the late 1970s. It ended after the Civil Rights movement in the United States heightened awareness about racism.

If, as the students at WTAMU insist, banning drag shows is an offense to gay and lesbian people, perhaps there is a parallel in the fact that the so-called “King of Blackface,” Al Jolson, was lauded for his musical talent throughout his career. Knowing the racism and damage that was done, it is unimaginable today, but some African Americans believed Jolson brought black music to the theatre at a time when blacks were not allowed to appear on stage.

One of the ugliest things about blackface is that it perpetuated the most violent racism in America by pushing racial stereotypes that black men were stupid with enormous sexual appetites. Alleging rape was one of the most common motivations for lynching, and blackface played a huge role in pushing that myth.

Drag pushes similar sexual stereotypes about women including overdone facial makeup—massive brows, lips and lashes, exaggerated breasts and wildly gyrating sexual movements that suggest voracious sexual appetites.

That’s one reason Dr. Wendler is right when he says there’s no such thing as a harmless drag show and why Texas State Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Tyler, should be lauded for Senate Bill 12 and Senate Bill 1608, which restrict drag shows to adult audiences and keep them out of public libraries.

Hopefully the “RuPaul Drag Race All Stars” will go the way of the “Black and White Minstrel Show” as the public finally realizes drag shows have nothing to do with gay rights. They are all about hate—and a particularly vicious kind of sexism.