Youngkin Shifts Northam Diversity Office Focus from Equity to Opportunity


Governor Glenn Youngkin is changing the focus of the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, created by former Governor Ralph Northam in the wake of his 2019 blackface scandal. Youngkin issued his tenth executive order Wednesday and announced his desire for the General Assembly to change the office name to Diversity, Opportunity, and Inclusion Office. He also named former Heritage Foundation official Angela Sailor to head the office, moves that Democrats saw as direct efforts to gut the office of its core purpose.

“The people of Virginia elected the most diverse leadership in the Commonwealth’s history. Virginia is big enough for the hopes and dreams of a diverse people. Angela Sailor’s experience in government, nonprofits and the private sector will guide us as we ensure that the government is working for all Virginians across our diverse Commonwealth, especially when it comes to economic opportunity for all Virginians,” Youngkin said in a press release.

Youngkin’s EO Ten lists key tasks for the office, including coordinating with the secretary of commerce for entrepreneurship for disadvantaged Virginians, facilitating multi-faith coordination, promoting viewpoint diversity in higher education, being an ambassador for unborn children, and working with the secretary of education to respond to parent concerns about education and curriculum.

“Every Virginian deserves dignity and respect, deserves the opportunity to pursue their dreams and deserves inclusion in the Virginia family,” the order states. “To accomplish this, we must strengthen and focus the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) by including in its mission the promotion of entrepreneurship and economic opportunity for all Virginians — including Virginians with disabilities — as well as the promotion of free speech and civil discourse.”

During her time at Heritage, Sailor wrote an article titled, “Schools Hiding Behind Diversity and Inclusion Rhetoric to Spew Critical Race Theory Vile.”

“Whether it’s presented and wrongly disguised as ‘diversity and inclusion’ or other euphemistic terms, evidence abounds that CRT is spreading in schools,” she wrote.

Sailor’s background and Youngkin’s shift in emphasis to include entrepreneurship and advocating for the unborn contrasts with Northam’s vision for the office.

In September 2019, Northam appointed Dr. Janice Underwood to lead the office.

“As the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Commonwealth of Virginia, Dr. Underwood will develop a sustainable framework to promote inclusive practices across Virginia state government; implement a measurable, strategic plan to address systemic inequities in state government practices; and facilitate ways to turn feedback from state employees, external stakeholders, and community leaders into concrete equity policy,” Northam’s press release said.

Senator Mamie Locke (D-Hampton) responded to Youngkin’s appointment in the Senate Thursday.

“The original intent of this position was equity, diversity, and inclusion, bringing all people together in this Commonwealth to be an open Commonwealth,” Locke said. “We are swapping equity for opportunity. Equity is opportunity, making sure everyone has the opportunity to succeed, no matter who they are or where they come from. Ignoring the disparities Virginians face when trying to promote opportunity is counterproductive.”

Locke said that including unborn children in the office duties removes opportunity for women who may need an abortion, and that Youngkin’s action introduces the debate about CRT indirectly into the office. She said CRT is not taught in public schools.

She said, “Teaching our children about the history of race helps us face and reckon with racism and prejudice and will create a more aware, emotionally intelligent and socially respectful next generation. If that is not what we want, then please tell me what is it that we want. Do we want to teach the truth about history in this Commonwealth? Obviously not, if we keep using Critical Race Theory as the red herring, which is probably what this office is now going to do, since it’s now opportunity as opposed to equity.”

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Angela Sailor” by The Heritage Foundation. Background Photo “Virginia Capitol” by Anderskev. CC BY 3.0.





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