Currently known as House Bill 2595, the proposed legislation seeks to ban “race or sex stereotyping or scapegoating” in the workforce, defined as “assigning fault, blame, or bias to a race or sex, or to members of a race or sex because of their race or sex,” as well as “any claim that, consciously or unconsciously, and by virtue of his or her race or sex, members of any race are inherently racist or are inherently inclined to oppress others, or that members of a sex are inherently sexist or inclined to oppress others.” It also prohibits state contractors from pushing those views upon their employees.
The bill would also ban schools from using any curriculum that promotes “divisive acts,” and block state funding from going into agencies promoting those concepts, including the idea that the United States is “fundamentally racist or sexist,” that an individual, by virtue of race or sex, is “inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously,” and that any individual should “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress” on the basis of race or sex.
House Bill 2595 is largely a replica of former President Donald Trump’s September 2020 executive order, which declared that “un-American” and “divisive concepts” should no longer be promoted in any diversity and inclusion trainings for the U.S. Armed Forces, government contractors, federal agencies, or recipients of federal grants. The latest version of the bill contains the exact same language and wording as the Trump order, with “the United States” replaced by “the State of West Virginia.”
President Joe Biden, in one of his first executive actions in White House, rescinded Trump’s ban of critical race theory in federal workplaces. In place of the Trump order, Biden issued an executive order of his own, stating that it is now the policy of the federal government to pursue “a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all,” and that federal agencies should revise any steps taken in accord with the previous order within 60 days.
The West Virginia bill came amid a heated debate over critical race theory and its role in America’s social, cultural, and economic institutions. An outgrowth of the European Marxist school of critical theory, critical race theory interprets the American system through a lens of power struggle between the race of the oppressor and that of the oppressed. As a result, according to the theory, the very foundations of the American social and political life—such as rationalism, constitutional law, and legal reasoning—are considered to be tools of racial oppression.