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Black Scholars Speak out Against California's Law Banning Travel to Red States

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File

This is what happens when disingenuous virtue signaling goes wrong. California passed a law in 2016 to boycott government-sponsored travel to red states. This move was somehow intended to send a message to all those bigoted conservatives who don’t like transing children or having biological males compete in women’s sports. However, as with most progressive endeavors, this measure has done more harm than good, to those about whom they claim to care.

The measure in question is AB 1887, a California law passed in 2016, which aimed to boycott states with discriminatory laws against LGBTQ+ individuals. The law prohibited state-funded travel to 23 states with such laws. However, at least some have pointed out some serious flaws with the legislation, especially related to its impact on black academics.

Authors Keenan Norris and A. Lamont Williams wrote an op-ed criticizing the law, noting how its restrictions have impacted black academics:

The ban restricts collaboration and hampers academic freedom, disconnecting Black and LGBTQ+ individuals from allies in conservative regions. The law’s focus on protecting LGBTQ+ communities has unintentionally limited the work of scholars shedding light on Southern Black communities. There is now a proposal to repeal AB 1887, with the recognition that it has not achieved its intended goals and has instead harmed Californians.

The authors continued, detailing how the law has made it more difficult for black academics to do their work:

A side effect of the measure has meant that all scholars at public institutions in California, regardless of their race or the subject matter they study, are prohibited from traveling to the banned states. But this law has specifically harmed Black academics in California, where many of us work at state-funded colleges and universities.

Many Black scholars in California have experienced limitations related to collaborating with fellow scholars and colleagues studying the South, where much of their research is rooted. For example, the administration at San Jose State University told one of us that no funding would be provided to attend the Florida Education Fund’s 2021 McKnight Annual Fellows Meeting, a hallmark event for early career “Black-ademics.”

The authors also noted that the majority of the states targeted by California’s ban are located in the South, where over 90 percent of black Americans resided before the Great Migration. They wrote:

To this day, most Black Americans live in the South. To conduct research and participate in the relevant academic discussions surrounding Black American life, history and culture, the South cannot be off-limits for California scholars, who may want to utilize university funding or public stipends for their research.

The article discussed how the authors had to “forgo attending conferences and panels based in the South” because the state universities “would not allow us to use institutional funds to cover our travel,” meaning that they had to pay out of their own pockets for their travel—which is a part of their jobs.

The authors continued:

As Black California academics, our problem with AB 1887 is its denial of academic freedom, which is ironically the centerpiece of the dispute over Black studies in Florida. Though California sets itself as the legislative antithesis of Florida, AB 1887’s effect upon academics is governmental overreach, not unlike Florida’s so-called anti-woke initiatives.

So, let’s get this straight: Not only did AB 1887 not produce anything tangible for members of the LGBTQ community, it is also affecting black academics from doing their jobs. It means these folks are unable to work towards bettering their communities because California’s government wanted to virtue signal.

This is par for the course for progressives who would rather make themselves look good than actually roll up their sleeves and work towards real solutions for “marginalized” people. This is yet another example showing that these people care nothing for folks like myself. To them, we are merely a means to a Marxist end.

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