The Iowa House of Representatives passed legislation on Tuesday that bans divisive concepts from being taught as fact in diversity training for universities, government entities and used in curriculum for Iowa schools.
At the heart of the bill are the following divisive concepts:
- One race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex;
- The United States of America and the state of Iowa are fundamentally or systemically racist or sexist;
- That an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously;
- That an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of the individual’s race or sex;
- That members of one race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race or sex;
- That an individual’s moral character is necessarily determined by the individual’s race or sex;
- That an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex;
- That any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of that individual’s race or sex;
- That meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist, or were creted by a particular race to oppress another race;
- Any other form of race or sex scapegoating or any other form of race or sex stereotyping.
Republican Rep. Steve Holt, who floor managed the bill, said in the seven years he has served in the House the discussion centered on the bill was the best discussion he’s ever had or ever heard of any bill.
“I learned a lot,” he said. “And I appreciate the discussion very, very much.”
Holt said he disagrees that we should mark each individual as oppressed or oppressive in order to stop racism and foster inclusiveness.
Democrat Rep. Marti Anderson spoke against the bill, saying that it sets out limitations related to racism and sexism in training efforts for diversity and inclusion.
“I know this is an effort or an attempt to stop finger-pointing related to the historical and current racism and sexism in our nation,” Anderson said. “Neither finger-pointing or blame moves us forward, I agree with that, but I don’t know how schools and workforces can foster a respectful environment through training without touching on racial and gender discrimination. These two issues are primary causes of disrespect between people.”
Anderson said the roots of injustice and discrimination in our society need “critical examination.”
She claimed the bill does not want the next generation of Americans to receive a “complete American history education that includes the facts of our darkest hours.”
Democrat Rep. Mary Wolfe said House Democrats reject all of the “clearly discriminatory concepts” listed in the bill, but does not believe the concepts should not be spoken of or alluded to in an effort to suggest things like “white privilege” or “implicit bias” or “systemic racism” do not exist.
Wolfe asked what will be talked about in diversity trainings if these topics are not allowed.
“The point is that is canceling reality, right,” she asked. That is closing our eyes and trying to pretend that if we don’t say implicit bias, it doesn’t exist. Or if we don’t say systemic racism, we can pretend we don’t have that.”
Wolfe said she agreed with Holt in his admiration for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream, but said it is just that – a dream.
“That day is not today,” she said. “That day is not here yet. And until it is, we should not be telling our local governments, our judicial branch, our executive branch, our schools that they cannot mention implicit bias or systemic racism or white privilege during diversity training.”
Democrat Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell said she finds a lot of the bill “offensive,” but can’t get two lines out of her head that deal with the U.S. and Iowa being fundamentally or systematically racist or sexist.
“No matter how open-minded or socially conscious, anti-racist I think I am, I still have old learned hidden biases that I need to examine,” she said. “Being anti-racist means I have to check myself daily and examine the stereotypes, prejudices and ultimately discrimination. If you have not engaged in this conversation, you may not be aware of the entrenched systemic racism.”
Democrat Rep. Mary Mascher said she supports requiring diversity training for the Iowa House.
Republican Rep. Henry Stone talked about diversity training and added that as an Asian-American, it impacts him as well.
Stone was born in Korea but was naturalized and grew up in Texas. His family ended up in Georgia in the 1980s.
“I will tell you that I’ve been called everything,” he said. “I completely support diversity and diversity training. But my problem is how are we teaching diversity? How are we conducting diversity training?”
Stone said he does not believe the U.S. and Iowa are fundamentally and systemically racist or sexist.
“We still want diversity to be talked about,” he said. “We still want diversity training to happen. But it’s how it’s conducted.”
He knows many Korean families that came to America and “never once ever thought about not coming to the United States.”
“They saw this land as a land of opportunity,” he said.
Democrat Rep. Liz Bennett talked about her dislike of how Republicans discussed communism and Marxism during the debate.
“Many members have taken it upon themselves to use the words of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which I think is ironic since it appears to me that many of the white members of this body have lectured the people of color in this body regarding the words of Martin Luther King Jr.
The arguments, Bennett said, are ironic and tiring. She said the charges of Marxism and divisiveness being made today are the same as the arguments that were directed at MLK Jr. “before he was murdered.”
Democrat Rep. Sharon Steckman asked if any teachers were actually implementing these concepts in their classrooms.
Republican Rep. Holly Brink read an email she received from an Iowa teacher who said they support the bill because the “rising tide” of divisiveness and an us-versus-them mentality is creeping into schools.
“How can I teach unity when my minority students are taught their classmates of a different race, sexuality or gender are inherently against them,” the teacher wrote.
The sins and crimes of forefathers should not be held against any of today’s students.
Ultimately, Holt said that he believes we should tell the positives of America while also teaching about the dark days of U.S. history.
“We will not tolerate the simplistic and false concept that our nation and state is systemically racist as being taught as fact without opposing viewpoints or debate,” he said.
The bill passed along party lines.
It will now head to the Iowa Senate.