Youngkin defends against attempts to 'cancel' cabinet pick over 'DEI is dead' remarks

Posted at 10:14 PM, May 01, 2023

LEXINGTON, Va - Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin is defending his cabinet member against calls for his resignation, sparked by comments Virginia’s Chief Diversity, Opportunity, and Inclusion Officer made at VMI.

During a speech, Martin Brown said, “DEI is dead.” DEI stands for diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“Let’s take a moment right now to kill that cow. DEI is dead,” Brown, who was appointed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R - Virginia) in November, said in a recording VMI provided the Washington Post. “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?”

Martin Brown
Martin Brown speaks at VMI.

Generally, businesses and organizations utilize DEI programs and educational material to promote all three values within their structure. Nationally, the term has been under attack by some conservative figures who argue the practices are meant to divide people.

In his first comments on the issue, a spokesperson for Youngkin said in a statement the governor stands by Brown against those trying to “cancel” him.

“Governor Youngkin will continue to advance equal opportunities—not equal outcomes—for all Virginians. This is too important of an issue to succumb to those seeking to cancel Chief Brown for challenging the groupthink of the progressive left’s pursuit of equity at any cost,” the statement said.

Virgina’s office changed "equity" in its name to "opportunity" — despite DEI being more widely used and accepted.

In the days since the comments became public, the Virginia N.A.A.C.P. and some Democrats have called for Brown to step down.

State Sen. Lamont Bagby, a Democrat who represents Virginia's 9th Senate District, said he believes Brown, as the state's chief diversity officer, "essentially resigned when he went to VMI" and said "DEI is dead."

"You think about the number of private businesses, individuals that are heading up DEI's in corporate Virginia. They're calling and they're saying, 'What does this mean for us?'" Bagby said. "Many individuals have DEI departments in their infrastructure now, and they're saying, 'Are we offending the governor by approaching this issue?'"

The backdrop of the remarks also raised eyebrows. In 2021, an investigation into VMI found the leadership tolerated and failed to address institutional racism and sexism for decades. An independent law firm investigating found “racial slurs and jokes are not uncommon” and “contribute to an atmosphere of hostility toward minorities.”

VMI implemented a host of reforms in response to the report.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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