HB 544: Banning Implicit Bias Training (Oppose)

Challenging white supremacy and dismantling systemic bias requires us to self-exam and confront our own biases, and the structures in which we operate, and apparently that was too much to ask for Republican House Majority Leader Jason Osborne. Osborne is a sponsor of HB 544, a near-carbon copy of the Trump Administration’s executive order last fall “to combat offensive and anti-American race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating.” Long story, short: Trump and Osborne don’t want anyone to learn about racism and sexism or to take steps to address it.

HB 544, prohibiting the dissemination of certain “divisive concepts” like unconscious bias related to sex and race

HB 544 defines and prohibits the dissemination of certain “divisive concepts” like unconscious bias related to sex and race. Under the bill, the State of New Hampshire shall not teach, instruct, or train any employee, contractor, staff member, student, or any other individual or group, to adopt or believe any of the divisive concepts – essentially banning things such as training on race or sex diversity, equity, or inclusion. The ban applies to all New Hampshire state agencies, contractors, and political subdivisions, including K-12 schools and public colleges and universities. The bill also states that no employee, contractor, staff member, or student of the state of New Hampshire shall face any penalty or discrimination based on their refusal to “support, believe, endorse, embrace, confess, act upon, or otherwise assent to the divisive concepts;” basically the bill provides a free pass for those who reject the reality of individual and systemic bias and its impact on social and institutional structures, and allows barriers to building a healthy and equitable society to remain in place.

Particularly now, after a year of reckoning and sustained mobilization around racial injustice, and as the COVID-19 public health pandemic lays bare the disproportionate health and economic impacts on people of color and women, this bill creates more hurdles to adequately responding. It contradicts core public health findings; promotes a narrative that portrays diversity trainings that address racism as dangerous; is ahistorical; and is so vague that it has a foreseeable chilling effect on legitimate trainings. (Points adopted from the Network for Public Health Law’s assessment of the Trump Executive Order.)

Now House Republicans have put this language into the State Budget, of all places, in order to try to pass it. Take action now! Contact your state legislators and tell them to oppose HB 544 and any versions of it in any bills!