Virginia’s new Governor Glenn Youngkin continues to ruffle feathers. This time he did it with an executive order changing the job title of Angela Sailor, his last cabinet addition. He did it by removing one word, and that word was “equity”.
What had been called Virginia’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion was created in 2019 by former VA Gov. Ralph Northam. This addition came in the aftermath of the Northam blackface scandal that almost ended his term as the governor of Virginia. The office still retains the same name, but not for long as Youngkin plans to change that too. As head of the department Sailor’s job title now reads: Commonwealth Chief Diversity, Opportunity & Inclusion Officer. Previously, when Janice Underwood held the job, it was called the Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer.
While addressing the name equity change via his executive order, Gov. Youngkin revealed he is also looking to refocus the office’s duties. Sailor is being tasked, along with her staff, to work on economic opportunities and cooperation with religious groups. He also wants Sailor to promote “free speech and civil discourse” at colleges and universities. One of his main tasks, which he ran his successful campaign on, is to ensure that Virginia’s school history curriculum is “honest, objective, and complete.” This is Youngkin’s direct shot at critical race theory, something he promised to do in his campaign.
Leading the charge to refocus her department from equity towards equality and opportunity is not something Sailor isn’t ready for. She has a vast background on the political front. Currently, she is the vice president of the Heritage Foundation’s Feulner Institute, but she has worked in the White House Office of Public Liaison under President George W. Bush. She held that position after she was the director of African American Affairs for Bush’s presidential campaign. Sailor worked on building coalitions for the Republican National Committee and was also the deputy chief of staff for former U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige.
Taking on Youngkin’s directive to ban “inherently divisive” teachings in classrooms across Virginia is something Sailor is accustomed to. Sailor, who is African American, recently touched on recently in her blog posts for The Heritage Foundation in which she said that any classroom lessons arguing that “America is systematically racist” is, in fact, “the textbook definition of racism.”
In one blog Sailor wrote titled, Schools Hiding Behind Diversity and Inclusion Rhetoric to Spew Critical Race Theory Vile, she noted that “No one would argue that children shouldn’t be thoroughly taught about the evils of racism, slavery, and segregation that happened in this country.” She continued, “But [critical race theory] ignores the hundreds of thousands of lives that were sacrificed during the Civil War to end slavery, the long struggle of the civil rights movement to end segregation and win equality, and the reality that the nation has made great progress.”
Although Youngkin seems to have chosen the perfect person to lead his charge, not all in Virginia were pleased with Youngkin’s decision to remove the word “equity” from Sailor’s job title. Del. Lamont Bagby, D-Henrico, chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, was one who did not agree. “I’m disappointed but not surprised that Governor Youngkin has decided to erase equity from the office,” Bagby said via the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “I keep hoping that they will turn their attention to actually solving problems but it’s evident that they are committed to dismantling the work that we have done to make our commonwealth more just and equitable.”
The removal of “equity” wasn’t the only feather-ruffling done that day. The Youngkin administration also took down the office’s website. This was a place where people could go for resources or reports concerning improving equity within state agencies and public institutions. A spokeswoman for Gov. Youngkin explained that the office’s work wasn’t specifically targeted since the administration’s entire website was being rebuilt.
Not everyone was buying that excuse. Bagby called the removal “disgraceful” while the first Muslim woman to be elected to the legislature, Sen. Ghazala Hashmi, D-Chesterfield, said, “It was a rich work coming from that website. I would hope they would provide information about where those resources are archived and how the public can access them.”
But it’s that word “equity” that is gaining so much attention in Virginia. Youngkin himself has stated that he will be introducing and supporting legislation to officially change the name of the office and not just the job title.