My Turn: Follow the right-wing money

For the Monitor

Published: 5/4/2021 10:00:05 AM

Looking deeper into the current debate around the so-called “divisive concepts” bill (HB 2 or HB 544) and its origins in former presidential Executive Order 13950, we find dubious lineage revealing outside money sources that oppose honest education around racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and ableism.

The brainchild of EO 13950 is Christopher Rufo, associated with several right fringe think tanks including the well-known, D.C.-based Heritage Foundation, which in addition to working against diversity education, bashes transgender people and defends the wealth of the ultra-rich 1%. The other think tanks Rufo is associated with push pseudoscience against teaching evolution. The Discovery Institute in Washington and The Claremont Institute in California promote the idea that “today’s multiculturalist enforcers seek to erase and replace America,” which is a foundational belief of white supremacists.

Recently, professionally printed pro-HB 544 signs appeared on lawns in the Lakes Region funded by FreedomWorks, another out-of-state far-right group with ties to the infamous Koch Brothers (Washington, D.C.). Besides opposing anti-racism education, FreedomWorks opposes climate change action and the Affordable Care Act.

Another out-of-state group pouring money into the anti-diversity campaign through yard signs and social media is No Left Turn (NLT) from Pennsylvania, led by Dr. Elana Yaron Fishbein. After the murder of George Floyd, Fishbein was not outraged about the killing of an innocent Black man, but instead took action when her kids’ school began teaching a children’s book about diversity.

She is a regular contributor to the Heritage Foundation publication The Daily Signal and in addition to diversity education, NLT also opposes sex education in schools and seems to have a particularly strong dislike of the transgender community. Dr. Fishbein has spoken out vociferously against The Equality Act, landmark legislation that expands federal civil rights laws to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment, housing, credit, jury service, and federally funded programs, such as those for health and education, as well as public places and spaces.

So who really supports outlawing diversity education in New Hampshire? At an April 24th rally at the NH state house, the speaker roster featured some of the more prominent voices against diversity education including Lily Tang Williams, NH Asian American Coalition; Bao Chau Kelley, NH Asian American Coalition; Karlyn Borysenko; Rep. Keith Ammon and Steve Negron.

Among the attendees of the pro-HB 544 rally were Dawn Johnson, the Laconia School Board member and state representative who posted an anti-Semitic image on Twitter back in December and who has failed to respond to demands that she resign from both of her elected offices. The Free State Project (FSP) is in fact a key NH cheerleader for the passage of this horrible legislation. Free staters Rep. Jason Osborne and Rep. Keith Ammon are co-sponsors of the legislation.

Discovering who supports diversity education is much easier as it’s not shadowy, out-of-state or quasi-criminal groups.  More than 227 NH businesses who collectively employ over 60,000 workers made a strong statement against this legislation and believe that “The success of New Hampshire businesses depends on the ability to attract diverse generational, gender and racial employee groups at all levels within our organizations and to do so, we must constantly work to create an environment that makes all our employees feel empowered in their roles.”

(William Maddocks lives in Amherst.)