Opinion: Calling Kamala Harris a ‘DEI hire’ is what bigotry looks like | CNN (2024)

Opinion: Calling Kamala Harris a ‘DEI hire’ is what bigotry looks like | CNN (1)

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Kamala Harris was asked if she’s ready to be president. Hear her reply

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Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program, “The Dean Obeidallah Show.” Follow him on Threads. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. Read more opinion at CNN.


“America may soon be subjected to the country’s first DEI president: Kamala Harris,” screamed the headline of anop-edin The New York Post on Saturday penned byFox Businesssenior correspondent Charles Gasparino.

Opinion: Calling Kamala Harris a ‘DEI hire’ is what bigotry looks like | CNN (2)

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The longtime media figure began his article by slamming Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs as “literally destroying businesses.” Gasparino then took aim at the vice president, writing that “the American public may soon be subjected to DEI writ large in the next president of the United States, if Kamala Harris finds her way to the top of the Democratic ticket.”

Gasparino’s suggestion that Harris only got to where she is because of diversity programs — not because she earned it — is despicable. It reeks of thewhite supremacist myththat people of color are inherently inferior to white people and, therefore, we achieve success and positions of influence not on the merits, but only with the help of a diversity program. (I once was called a “quota hire” years ago on social media by a Fox News frequent guest because at the time I was the first Muslim hired to host a national radio show.)

Gasparino’s use of “DEI hire” apparently to demean the achievements of a person of color is far from the first time we’ve seen this. In fact, just last week, GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado took a page from this same vile playbook in a social media post attacking White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris looks on during a campaign event at Girard College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., May 29, 2024. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters Related article Opinion: Kamala Harris is the only viable alternative for Democrats

Boebert — who in the pastsuggestedthat Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who is Muslim, was a terrorist — was apparentlyupsetwith Jean-Pierre’s comments about Biden’s workday being many hours longer than she believed to be true, so she smeared her as a “discredited DEI hire.”

Earlier this year, the same DEI-as-insult line was used toattackthe Black mayor of Baltimore, Brandon Scott, after the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse. Scott responded to the smears bystating, “We know what these folks really want to say when they say ‘DEI mayor’.” He added bluntly, “They really want to say the N-word.” The mayor later gloriouslytrolledthe bigots, telling MSNBC that the acronym “DEI” actually stands for “duly-elected incumbent.”

In February, we even saw DEI used as a slur by a Republican against a fellow party member. That happened after the New York congressional special election in which Democrat Tom Suozzi defeated the GOP candidate, Mazi Melesa Pilip, who was born in Ethiopia. In response, Trump ally GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz of Floridadeclaredon Newsmax, “It turns out DEI isn’t a real good strategy for Republican candidate recruitment.”

There’s no hiding what’s intended with these types of attacks. In fact, Gasparino was not shy on this point, writing Harris was only picked by Biden as his running mate in 2020 because as a Black woman she “checked all the boxes.”

Never mind the fact that Harris had been apublic servantfor more than 16 years at the time: first as an elected district attorney of San Francisco, and later as the elected attorney general for the state of California, where she oversaw the largest state justice department in the country. In that office, shesuccessfullysecured billions of dollars in damages from unscrupulous businesses that had preyed on Californians.

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Nor does it matter to her detractors that Harris was then elected to the US Senate in 2016, where she made a name for herself with her service on the Judiciary and Intelligence committees. Nope, Gasparino apparently attributes her many achievements to her being given preferential treatment because of her race and gender. He predicted that if President Joe Biden ends up remaining on the 2024 ticket and wins, it’s unlikely he would physically be able to serve four years. The result, he says, is that “Harris becomes the nation’s first DEI president by default.”

Of course, none of what Gasparino said was written in a vacuum. It’s in keeping with efforts by Republicans to try to discredit both the achievements by people of color as well as efforts to address our nation’s past acts of racism and racial discrimination. That’s been evident for months, as GOP-led legislatures rush to enact lawsrestricting and even outlawingDEI programs in education, state government, contracting, pension investments and other aspects of civic life.

Those actions are, at least in part, an outgrowth of the hostility to DEI shown by former President Donald Trump, whosignedan executive order in fall 2020 forbidding the federal government, as well federal contractors, subcontractors and grantees, from offering diversity training on racial issues.

But many of those initiatives were only put into place after streets across the country filled with protesters in response to the videotaped murder by police in Minneapolis of George Floyd, and a dawning awareness by many Americans of just how profound the nation’s racism problem is.

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Despite that, Trump — who in the summer of 2020 called “Black Lives Matter” a “symbol of hate” — dismissed such programs as “anti-American propaganda.”

And that was just the start. In an interview with Time magazine published in April, the former president vowed to do more to unwind diversity initiatives if he gets back into the White House. “I think there is a definite anti-white feeling in this country and that can’t be allowed,” he declared.

The point of what Gasparino, Boebert, Gaetz and others meant when using “DEI hire” was to demean the triumphs of Black Americans because they simply don’t believe a Black person could’ve attained that level of success on their own merit.

And it’s more than a little reminiscent of Trump himself, when he spreadhis false “birther” claimsuggesting that former President Barack Obama, as a Black man, could not possibly have been born in this country and have achieved, on his own merits, his academic and political accomplishments. It was a statement born of jealousy and bigotry. It was, and is, despicable.

But if one is to believe what he says, Trump will pick up where he left off if he reclaims the White House. And sadly, the nation’s DEI-hater-in-chief will have lots of company, because animus against racial fairness and equity appears to explain much of what fuels today’s GOP.

Opinion: Calling Kamala Harris a ‘DEI hire’ is what bigotry looks like | CNN (2024)
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