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Texas lawmakers, leaders of color condemn governor's call to ban diverse hiring practices

Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas NAACP, speaks to members of the press while Texas lawmakers and leaders listen on Feb. 14, 2023.
Texas Legislative Black Caucus
Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas NAACP, speaks to members of the press while Texas lawmakers and leaders listen on Feb. 14, 2023.

Gov. Greg Abbott's recent memo called diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in state agencies and public universities illegal and discriminatory.

Black and Latino lawmakers and other leaders on Tuesday condemned Gov. Greg Abbott's order to stop considering diversity in hiring, while calling on major sports organizations to boycott the state over the governor's stance.

Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas NAACP, said Abbott's efforts to limit diversity initiatives are bringing Texas closer to "the Jim Crow era." He also called on the NBA, the NFL and other national sports organizations to not host any championship games in Texas until Abbott reverses the initiative.

"What the governor is doing appeals and actualizes the policies and beliefs of the most extreme and bigoted Americans," Bledsoe said.

Bledsoe's comments were made at a press conference alongside the Texas Legislative Black Caucus and Mexican American Legislative Caucus Tuesday.

In a memo obtained by the Texas Tribune, Abbott's office recently warned state agencies and public universities against enacting diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. He said hiring efforts based on anything but merit are illegal and discriminatory.

“The innocuous sounding notion of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) has been manipulated to push policies that expressly favor some demographic groups to the detriment of others,” Abbott’s chief of staff Gardner Pate wrote in the memo to agency heads.

Black caucus chair and state Rep. Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City, said the governor's new policy would stifle opportunities for equal representation.

"As we have seen time in and time out, our diversity is our strength," Reynolds said. "Drawing our talent pool from such a diverse workforce only serves to better our agencies and institutions of higher education."

Other leaders in attendance included state Rep. Victoria Neave, D-Dallas, who addressed reporters partly in Spanish and said that lawmakers have a responsibility to empower those Texans who have been historically excluded.

"Sadly, it was less than a generation ago when Mexican and African American students were segregated in Texas schools," Neave told reporters in Spanish.

Conservative lawmakers have taken issue with the promotion of diversity, equity and inclusion during this legislative session. This week Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick revealed his legislative priorities in the Texas Senate, which include banning diversity programs in higher education.

In House, state Rep. Carl Tepper, R-Lubbock, filed House Bill 1006, which would prohibit funding offices or initiatives dedicated to DEI.

Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer represents San Antonio's District 116 and is part of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus. He said the diversity of the Texas leaders present at Tuesday's conference reflects the need for continued, equal representation in state agencies.

"Whether it's the governor or the next door neighbor that says that diversity doesn't matter, I want you to look at the unofficial Black and brown and AAPI caucus that is standing here saying that we don't agree with that," Fischer said.

Got a tip? Email Toluwani Osibamowo at You can follow Toluwani on Twitter @tosibamowo.

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Toluwani Osibamowo is a general assignments reporter for KERA. She previously worked as a news intern for Texas Tech Public Media and copy editor for Texas Tech University’s student newspaper, The Daily Toreador, before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She is originally from Plano.