The political fights over diversity, equity and inclusion programs have become increasingly heated in recent years. Currently, conservatives in 20 states are looking to ban or restrict DEI programs. In response to this hostility, a coalition of Black organizations has begun coordinating strategies to defend the programs from assault.

Coalition of Black organizations fighting for DEI

NBC News reported, “An unofficial coalition of civil rights, political and advocacy groups are launching a multifaceted counter to the growing cries to dismantle diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.” Those involved in the effort include organizations such as the National Urban League, the Black Economic Alliance and the National Action Network led by the Rev. Al Sharpton. The Congressional Black Caucus is also involved in the efforts to coordinate strategies to defend DEI programs, as well as Black leaders, from Republican targeting. The group has been mobilized as DEI programs and initiatives have been attacked by conservative politicians and businesspeople, including billionaires like Elon Musk and Bill Ackman.

Although leaders like National Urban League President Marc Morial have hesitated to share too many details of their strategy, they are clearly taking a multifaceted approach to defending diversity initiatives. Several organizations have focused on reaching out to major corporations. The Congressional Black Caucus sent a letter to the heads of every Fortune 500 company in December, asking about their DEI work. Morial told NBC that he has requested to speak at an upcoming meeting of top American CEOs about the importance of diversity programs. The pro-DEI strategy also includes acts of protest; Sharpton and the National Action Network, for example, have held weekly demonstrations at the offices of Ackman, who led efforts to push out Harvard President Claudine Gay earlier this year.

Multi-state Republican efforts against DEI programs

While anti-DEI forces have individually targeted people like Gay, the Republican efforts to dismantle these programs are proceeding systematically across the country. The anti-DEI push builds from the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down affirmative action policies in college admissions. This ruling has already seen restrictions placed on state universities, eliminating scholarships for minority students and more. Prominent Republicans like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a recent presidential candidate, have made anti-DEI policies a central part of their political platforms.

In 2024 alone, Republicans have already introduced 50 bills that would ban or restrict DEI initiatives in 20 states, according to a report by The Associated Press. These efforts build upon similar bills and executive actions by Republican governors and legislators to eliminate, defund or restrict diversity programs in public institutions. The American Civil Liberties Union reported that 65 such bills were proposed in 25 states last year, with at least eight becoming law. These bills have targeted public colleges and universities, K-12 schools, employment in government agencies and more.

The Republican push against DEI shows no signs of slowing down but may accelerate as states copy each other’s strategies. Faced with this growing campaign to shoot down programs that level the playing field for Black and other minority applicants, the increasing coalition of pro-DEI organizations and activists has its work cut out for it.