AUSTIN (KXAN) – Dozens of activists went to the Texas Capitol Tuesday to protest several bills they posit are anti-DEI – diversity, equity and inclusion – saying these bills set back progress African Americans have made in recent decades. 

“Make no mistake, these bills are anti-Black and anti-Latino. We’re talking about everything from the continuation of suppressing voting rights to eliminating programs in Texas colleges and universities that help recruit, retain and support African American students as well as other students of color,” said Gary Bledsoe, President of the Texas chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). 

Two bills the activists called out were HB 5140, filed by House Rep. Briscoe Cain, and HB 3164, filed by House Rep. Carl Tepper. 

If HB 5140 passes it will prohibit recruiters filling roles for government employment or contracting from considering race and ethnicity when hiring. It would also prohibit universities from considering race in the admission process. So far, no other lawmakers have sponsored this bill. It has been referred to the House Committee on State Affairs. 

34 Republican House Reps have sponsored Tepper’s HB 3164, previously titled HB 1006. If this bill passes, it will prohibit higher education institutions from funding or supporting diversity, equity and inclusion offices. Further, it blocks universities from taking additional initiatives to create diversity beyond what is required by the Fourteenth Amendment. 

“The purpose of higher education is to facilitate students’ discovery, improvement and dissemination of knowledge. Although the State of Texas is home to many world-class universities, certain public institutions of higher education have fallen short in their duty to allow intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity. Some of Texas’ public institutions of higher education now operate offices of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). DEI offices use public funds to practice woke discrimination, self-segregation and division,” Tepper said in a statement to KXAN. 

“The DEI legislation was not intended to be harmful or partisan. It is intended to refocus the university systems on higher education and free thought and free speech.  The universities are no place for partisan indoctrination or ideological purity,” Tepper continued. 

HB 3164 mirrors Senate Bill 17, filed by Texas Senator Brandon Creighton, which has been named one of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s top legislative priorities. If passed, this bill would also prohibit colleges and universities in the state from having DEI offices, according to reporting from the Statesman.  

“[HB 3164] is just one of many bills that move in a realm of DEI – that takes away from the voice from people who want to have a voice,” said Brian Rowland, membership chair for the Texas NAAC. “We are opposing anything that is going to reduce our voice at the table,” he continued.