On Monday, Virginia’s Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin spoke to reporters during a ceremonial bill signing outside the Executive Mansion in Richmond. He addressed recent comments made by his chief diversity officer, Martin Brown, who declared that “DEI is dead,” which prompted calls from Democrats for the governor to fire him. Youngkin said that the concept of diversity, equity, and inclusion was admirable a decade ago, but has since “gone off the rails” and “taken on a new mission.”
He explained that the ideas of diversity, equity, and inclusion, along with environmental, social, and governance, were laudable five to ten years ago. The goal was to embrace diversity and make sure that opportunities were made available to everyone, fostering an inclusive environment where people feel part of a community instead of being excluded. However, Youngkin believes that these concepts have gone off the rails and taken on a new mission that is not consistent with those key principles. Youngkin stated that there is work to do to get back to the basic principles that they know are right.
Youngkin said that DEI has advocated for the idea of “equal outcomes” that sacrifices equal opportunity. “We’ve got to get back to the basic principles that we know are right and away from the bombastic language that DEI has become where people all of a sudden are professing that we want equal outcomes for everyone at any costs and where all of a sudden excellence has been subordinated to equity,” he said. “Let’s put words down and go work on the things that we know are right.”
Brown’s remarks that “DEI is dead” came in late April when he was speaking to Virginia Military Institute faculty and staff. Brown said that “We’re not going to bring that cow up anymore. It’s dead. It was mandated by the General Assembly, but this governor has a different philosophy of civil discourse, civility, treating — living the golden rule, right?”
Last week, Virginia House Minority Leader Don Scott Jr. and state Sen. Scott A. Surovell, both Democrats, penned a letter to state Attorney General Jason Miyares requesting an informal opinion about Youngkin’s changes to DEI. The lawmakers cited the governor’s decision to replace the word “equity” with “opportunity” for the position currently held by Brown and noted that he is referred to as Virginia’s Chief Diversity, Opportunity, and Inclusion Officer on the state’s website. The Democrats also pointed out that the 2020 law establishing the position requires it to be for the “Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.”