Republicans in the Iowa House have voted to forbid introducing what the bill calls “divisive concepts” like gender or race-based stereotypes in diversity training for staff and students at most publicly-funded institutions in the state.
The bill would bar public schools and universities as well as any state or local government agency from having diversity training that suggests the United States or the State of Iowa is “fundamentally racist.”
“I believe that teaching or applying a certain characteristic to a certain group of people based on color is the very definition of racism,” said Representative Steven Holt, a Republican from Denison, “and the way I was raised, that’s un-American.”
Representative Henry Stone, a Republican from Forest City, is an Asian American who told his colleagues he’s been called every racial slur you could imagine, but Stone said he does not believe there is “systemic racism” in the United States or in Iowa.
“I wholeheartedly support this bill because I believe that diversity training should still go on,” Stone said, “but we need to change the way that it’s taught.”
Republican Representative Mark Cisneros of Muscatine said he objects to diversity training that promotes “victimhood.”
“We have evidence of the ill effects of it,” Cisneros said. “…Tearing down statutes or attempting to, demanding that white people apologize for their whiteness, yelling at people in public.”
All the Democrats present in the House tonight voted against the bill. Representative Ako Abdul-Samad, a Democrat from Des Moines, said the bill impedes an open discussion about racism.
“I love America and in loving America, we have a right to criticize America,” Abdul-Samad said, “…and this bill is not going to deal with the ills of America.”
Representative Kirsten Running-Marquardt, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, said the bill goes too far in dictating what topics cannot be introduced in diversity discussions.
“If the teachers and trainers cannot identify the evil, the root of the problem…how are we going to solve it?” she asked.
Representative Mary Wolfe, a Democrat from Clinton, accused Republicans of trying to cancel reality.
“Closing our eyes and trying to pretend that if we don’t say, ‘implicit bias,’ it doesn’t exist,” Wolfe said, “or if we don’t say ‘systemic racism,’ we can pretend we don’t have that.”
The House debated the bill for about four hours before passing it at about 7:15 tonight. The proposal now goes to the Senate for consideration.