Sunday, January 28, 2024

‘America Is Under Attack’: Inside the Anti-D.E.I. Crusade, by Nicholas Confessore, New York Times | January 20, 2024

This attack against DEI is a totally work-shopped, strategic-planned, well-orchestrated, well-heeled attack, as laid bare by this New York Times investigation by Nicholas Confessore that consists of Freedom of Information requests of those in the center of this extremist, anti-civil rights agenda. Their "observations" are sprinkled throughout the document and are well worth reading, but you do have to subscribe to the newspaper to read them. Spoiler alert. Here is a statement in just one exposed email:

 America is under attack by a leftist revolution disguised as a plea for justice [...] This is, in fact, the goal: to produce swarms of anti-American zealots who will work to reshape the culture, customs, and political principles of the country, using strategies reminiscent of Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution (Ryan P. Williams, President, Claremont Institute, Claremont, California).

THIS IS A LIE and it's SO OFF BASE that laughter was my initial response. Note: There are a bunch of other doozies, too.

I'll not spoil it anymore for you. 🤭

The irony is a strong critique that I and many others have had of our higher education institutions being so incredibly conservative. After all, higher education institutions are dominated by elites and the knowledge that is produced within them overwhelmingly reflects the interests and preferences of this very class! 

Ever heard of the term, the "Ivory Tower?" Exactly. Elitism is what that phrase means. Were this not the case, we as minoritized researchers and faculty—where we are woefully underrepresented—wouldn't be fighting from the margins for substantive inclusion in the higher education curriculum. Not that we've not made a modicum of progress, but rather that we are a far cry from a "leftist revolution."

Moreover, to regard the left within academia as "anti-American zealots" smacks of what we REALLY should be concerned about, namely, "Red Scare politics," that this attack represents—with its scurrilous, irresponsible rhetoric with echoes of McCarthyism, and the late Sen. Joe McCarthy's House Un-American Activities Committee.

Moreover, these extremist think tanks, donors, politicians, and leaders hypocritically decry activism within academia while failing to own up to their own.

And boy, are these folks activists, manifesting a fear that makes them say ridiculous things that reveal their deep-seated anxieties. That's precisely what this NYTimes piece is about.  If they weren't so dangerous, I'd feel sorry for them. A life filled with fearing the "other"—or "an-other"—that actually doesn't want to hurt you or take anything away from you sounds so unnecessarily hard of a life to live. 

From the diverse side of the anti-diversity equation, there is so much to appreciate, honor, and celebrate that these folks are willfully missing out on. The truth is obviously not all unicorns and rainbows, but as the Good Book says, the truth does set us free. Plus, they totally miss the mark of what a 21st-century, world-class K-12 and higher education system could be, one that provides general uplift to all of God's creation.

Instead of seeking to engineer antagonistic perspectives toward the "other"—or "an-other"—let's do what Jesus would do and discover love, caring, and compassion instead. Love vibrates at a higher level anyway, as opposed to hate-filled rhetoric that, by all indications, won't motivate another generation. This is especially true if theirs is about repression through this raw exercise of power. What they propose isn't appealing and never will be.

I wish I could cut and paste all the email comments that populate the NY Times interactive piece because they pull down the curtain on the current moment, revealing the cowering and conniving proverbial Wizard of Oz, together with the fear, resentment, and machinations that drive their behaviors and agenda. So pathetic. So sad. 

This New York Times article is a keeper. I'm sharing it with my students and everyone I know who could use a bit of clarity regarding what's afoot in higher education politics today.

-Angela Valenzuela

‘America Is Under Attack’: Inside the Anti-D.E.I. Crusade 

By Nicholas Confessore, New York Times | January 20, 2024

In late 2022, a group of conservative activists and academics set out to abolish the diversity, equity and inclusion programs at Texas’ public universities. They linked up with a former aide to the state’s powerful lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick,1 who made banning D.E.I. initiatives one of his top priorities. Setting their sights on well-known schools like Texas A&M, they researched which offices and employees should be expunged. A well-connected alumnus conveyed their findings to the A&M chancellor; the former Patrick aide cited them before a State Senate committee. The campaign quickly yielded results: In May, Texas approved legislation banishing all such programs from public institutions of higher learning.

Long before Claudine Gay resigned Harvard’s presidency this month under intense criticism of her academic record, her congressional testimony about campus antisemitism and her efforts to promote racial justice, conservative academics and politicians had begun making the case that the decades-long drive to increase racial diversity in America’s universities had corrupted higher education. Gathering strength from a backlash against Black Lives Matter, and fueled by criticism that doctrines such as critical race theory had made colleges engines of progressive indoctrination, the eradication of D.E.I. programs has become both a cause and a message suffusing the American right. In 2023, more than 20 states considered or approved new laws taking aim at D.E.I., even as polling has shown that diversity initiatives remain popular.

Thousands of documents obtained by The New York Times cast light on the playbook and the thinking underpinning one nexus of the anti-D.E.I. movement — the activists and intellectuals who helped shape Texas’ new law, along with measures in at least three other states. The material, which includes casual correspondence with like-minded allies around the country, also reveals unvarnished views on race, sexuality and gender roles. And despite the movement’s marked success in some Republican-dominated states, the documents chart the activists’ struggle to gain traction with broader swaths of voters and officials.

Centered at the Claremont Institute, a California-based think tank with close ties to the Trump movement and to Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, the group coalesced roughly three years ago around a sweeping ambition: to strike a killing blow against “the leftist social justice revolution” by eliminating “social justice education” from American schools.

The documents — grant proposals, budgets, draft reports and correspondence, obtained through public-records requests — show how the activists formed a loose network of think tanks, political groups and Republican operatives in at least a dozen states. They sought funding from a range of right-leaning philanthropies and family foundations, and from one of the largest individual donors to Republican campaigns in the country. They exchanged model legislation, published a slew of public reports and coordinated with other conservative advocacy groups in states like Alabama, Maine, Tennessee and Texas.

In public, some individuals and groups involved in the effort joined calls to protect diversity of thought and intellectual freedom, embracing the argument that D.E.I. efforts had made universities intolerant and narrow. They claimed to stand for meritocratic ideals and against ideologies that divided Americans. They argued that D.E.I. programs made Black and Hispanic students feel less welcome instead of more.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Outrage as Oklahoma bill labels Hispanic gang members ‘terrorists’

 Shame on this Oklahoma lawmaker. For a state that endured a major bombing of a

federal building at the hands of a white supremacist, domestic terrorist, they should know better.

-Angela Valenzuela

Outrage as Oklahoma bill labels Hispanic gang members ‘terrorists’

Republican JJ Humphrey seeks punishments for ‘acts of terrorism’ and defines terrorist as ‘any person who is of Hispanic descent’

The Oklahoma capitol building. Photograph: James Johnson/Wikimedia Commons

An Oklahoma lawmaker is facing backlash for proposing a discriminatory bill that deems gang members of Hispanic descent as “terrorists”.

The Republican state representative JJ Humphrey introduced the bill, HB 3133, which seeks to combat problems in the state, such as drug and human trafficking, and lay out punishments to those who have committed these “acts of terrorism”.

The punishment for such a crime would be forfeiting all assets, including any and all property, vehicles and money.

In addition to “a member of a criminal street gang” and someone who “has been convicted of a gang-related offense”, the bill defines a terrorist as “any person who is of Hispanic descent living within the state of Oklahoma”.

No other racial or ethnic group is singled out in the legislation.

The move was met with fierce criticism.

The State senator Michael Brooks, who serves as the senate’s minority caucus vice-chair and founded the Oklahoma Latino legislative caucus, said the move by Humphrey was unsurprising.

“To have the law treat people differently based on their race or ethnicity only creates greater divides,” Brooks said. “The bill is fatally flawed, and I don’t know if there’s much of a way to be able to change it.”

Some Oklahomans voiced their outrage on social media.

One X user wrote: “Tell us you’re racist without telling us you’re racist …”

Humphrey apologized but then doubled down.

He said: “I apologize for using the word Hispanic, but I was not wrong. Again, these are Hispanic. Reality is they are Hispanic. There’s nothing to be ashamed with.”

Humphrey said he will go back to the bill and amend the language from “Hispanic” to “undocumented here illegally, or something like that”.

If passed in the Republican-controlled legislature, the bill would become law and take effect on 1 November.

Humphrey did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

 This article was amended on 19 January 2024 to clarify the bill targets gang members of Hispanic descent

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

More than 26K rape-related pregnancies estimated after Texas outlawed abortions, new study says

These numbers are staggering. Tragedy layered over tragedy for rape survivors who are not getting the health care that they need. 

One of my relatives was the product of a rape. His mother resented him his entire life. Clearly, his very existence was a daily reminder of the violence that befell her. I felt torn about his recounting of how she abused him as a young child, on the one hand, and how she was herself a victim, on the other. Yes, they were both "survivors," so to speak, but they both lived tough lives. 

For survivors and children alike, theirs is a massive burden of fluctuating emotions of pain, anger, and despair. Now multiply this by 26,000 women in our state who are impacted by the Texas state legislature outlawing abortions. In another 16 months, will this figure double and grow to 52,000, and then to 78,000 in yet another 16 months?! This feels horrific to me, setting into motion yet another policy-induced pathology in society that will find expression in the ugliest of ways. What are these legislators thinking?!

We must restore women's reproductive rights, not the least of which is the right to an abortion under circumstances of rape or incest. The current policy is beyond cruel and inhumane.

-Angela Valenzuela

Texas abortion laws do not offer exceptions for rape or incest.

By Julian Gill,Staff writerJan 24, 2024

A pregnant woman stands for a portrait in this 2023 AP file photo. Texas saw an estimated 26,313 rape-related pregnancies during the 16 months after the state outlawed all abortions with no exceptions for survivors of rape or incest, according to a study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. 

AP file photo/Associated Press

Texas saw an estimated 26,313 rape-related pregnancies during the 16 months after the state outlawed all abortions, with no exceptions for survivors of rape or incest, according to a study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

That’s the highest figure among the 14 states with total abortion bans, with Texas having the largest population, according to the study. 

“Survivors who need abortion care should not have their reproductive autonomy further undermined by state policy,” said one of the authors, Dr. Kari White, of the Texas-based Resound Research for Reproductive Health. 

The authors noted that while some pregnant rape survivors who need abortion care may be able to travel out of state or manage the pregnancy at home with abortion pills, the bans leave many survivors without a viable alternative. 

Following the June 2022 Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade, the researchers estimated there were 519,981 rapes associated with 64,565 pregnancies during the four to 18 months after states implemented total abortion bans. Of those pregnancies, an estimated 5,586 occurred in states with exceptions for rape and 58,979 in states with no exceptions.

Of the five states with rape exceptions, strict gestational limits and requirements to report the rape to law enforcement make it harder for most survivors to qualify, the study said.  There were 10 or fewer legal abortions per month in the five states with rape exceptions, the study said, indicating that survivors with access to abortion care still cannot receive it in their home state. 

“Politicians use the idea of abortion exceptions to provide political cover, but those so-called exceptions don’t actually help pregnant survivors get the care they need,” the study’s lead author Dr. Samuel Dickman said in the release.  

Dickman, a researcher at the City University of New York’s Research Foundation and the Chief Medical Officer at Planned Parenthood of Montana, said rape survivors who become pregnant “deserve to make informed, personal decisions about their pregnancy, and state-level abortion bans–even those with exceptions–don’t allow them to do that.”  

Behind Texas, the states with the highest totals were Missouri (5,825), Tennessee (4,990), Arkansas (4,660), Oklahoma (4,530), Louisiana (4,290) and Alabama (4,130). 

Researchers at Harvard Medical School and The University of California, San Francisco, also carried out the study. The authors analyzed survey and crime report data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the FBI and the Bureau of Justice Statistics. They estimated the numbers of girls and women aged 15-45 who had survived rape that could result in pregnancy in each state after the bans took effect, then applied estimates of the pregnancy rate from rape.  

This story will be updated. 

Jan 24, 2024

Julian Gill is a medical reporter for the Houston Chronicle. He can be reached at His wide-ranging work on the medical beat, including a three-part narrative on a COVID-19 lung transplant patient, was recognized at the 2022 Texas Managing Editors awards, where he received top honors in the specialty reporting category and second place in the star reporter of the year category.

In addition to his extensive reporting on COVID, he has written about the effects of the Texas abortion ban, the maternal mortality crisis, and advances in the Texas Medical Center.

He joined the paper in 2018 after two years at the Denton Record-Chronicle, where he covered police and county government. He graduated from the University of North Texas. A San Antonio native, he is a die-hard Spurs fan and avid runner.