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Iowa House passes bill banning diversity training that calls US systemically racist or sexist

Iowa House passes bill banning diversity training that calls US systemically racist or sexist
© Greg Nash

The Iowa House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a bill that would ban diversity training that includes the idea that Iowa and the United States "are fundamentally or systemically racist or sexist."

The bill, House File 802, provides requirements for any diversity training carried out at Iowa public schools, within the state government and at state universities.

It prohibits a total of 10 "divisive concepts" to be taught, including "that the United States of America and the state of Iowa are fundamentally or systemically racist or sexist, that an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past and that an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously."

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If the bill is passed it would still allow for the concepts to be discussed within a larger educational context, but not within state facilitated diversity trainings, according to a local CBS News station.

State Rep. Steve Holt (R) reportedly stated during the House debate that all of the concepts listed in the bill have fostered "resentment and hatred against our nation."

"I reject absolutely and with great enthusiasm the idea that we must adopt racist ideology and scapegoat races of people, marking each individual as either 'oppressor' or 'oppressed,' " Holt said.

Democratic state representatives pushed back on the measure, saying that censoring diversity training within the state would hamper free speech, according to KCCI.

"We can't have it both ways," Democratic Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad said. "We can't say on one hand 'we want freedom of speech' on another hand say 'we want to hear both sides' and then stifle those sides."

State Rep. Mary Wolfe (D) stated that the bill would suggest an altered version of reality.

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"That is closing our eyes and trying to pretend that if we don't say 'implicit bias,' it doesn't exist, or we don't say 'systemic racism,' we can pretend we don't have that," Wolfe said, according to the report.

The bill was passed by the House in a 59-38 vote along party lines.

The Iowa Senate last week passed similar legislation, according to the Des Moines Register. However, the House expanded the definition of "divisive concepts." The two chambers will have to reach agreement on the different aspects of the legislation to move forward.