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DEI and Racial Narratives Crop Up in the Wake of Baltimore Bridge Disaster

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

On Tuesday morning, a cargo ship collided with a pier supporting Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key bridge. The collision took out the structure’s support, causing it to collapse.

Six people tragically lost their lives during the incident. Fortunately, two people were rescued. The incident has elicited an outpouring of grief and sympathy from across the country as efforts are being made to understand what led to the disaster.

However, as with most tragedies, some members of the chattering class pounced on the opportunity to politicize the tragedy by racializing it. Influencers and media figures on both sides of America’s political divide used the incident to promote racial narratives on an issue where it clearly does not belong.

On the right, some folks claimed, without evidence, that the crash was somehow caused by diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies implemented by the company that operated the ship. DEI has become a hot-button issue over recent years, and some states have even passed legislation to combat the practice. However, it seems clear that the collapse was caused by a “complete blackout” that caused the ship to lose its propulsion power.

Those opposing DEI argue that those practicing it prioritize immutable characteristics like race, gender, and sexuality over hiring qualified people to do their jobs. They assert that disasters such as this are a result of not hiring the best people for the job.

Utah State Rep. Phil Lyman was quick to attribute the collapse to DEI policies even though there is no evidence that this caused the crash. “This is what happens when you have governors who prioritize diversity over the wellbeing and security of citizens,” he wrote in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Republican Florida congressional candidate Anthony Sabatini also blamed DEI for the disaster.

The focus on DEI became so pronounced among the influencer class that some took shots at Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, one of whom referred to him as a “DEI mayor.”

On the left, there was similar behavior. The Associated Press responded to the tragedy by putting out a hit piece on Francis Scott Key, the bridge’s namesake. The piece delved into Key’s controversial legacy, noting his ownership of slaves and his anti-abolitionist stance. 

“His personal history has made him a controversial figure in some quarters; in June 2020, a statue of him in San Francisco was taken down,” the outlet wrote.

As RedState’s Bob Hoge so aptly put it:

Fair enough. Not most people’s particular concern at the moment as the recovery efforts continue, but hey, AP, you do you. They detail the circumstances under which Key wrote the Star-Spangled Banner, which became our national anthem—but it’s at the end that they get to the real reason they wrote the article: Key’s association with slavery is evidently important to the story of a cargo ship crashing into a bridge over two centuries later.

Hoge also brought up former California Assemblyman Mike Gatto, who made an odd connection to immigration in what appeared to be a veiled jab at those supporting stricter immigration policies.

Self-proclaimed “Disability lifestyle expert” and writer Ola Ojewumi suggested that they rename the bridge in honor of the six indviduals who perished in the disaster since they were people of color.

These responses underscore today’s polarization in American society. In the past, a tragedy like this would have prompted sympathy from members of the chattering class regardless of which side they were on. But now, it seems the first reaction from some of these folks is to see how they can use these types of incidents to promote their political agenda.

Some on the right sought to use the bridge collapse to attack DEI, which is a practice that has plenty of legitimately problematic elements. On the left, they used it to promote the notion that America is irredeemably racist by attacking a legitimately problematic figure who also happened to write the national anthem.

Unfortunately, these political tactics only serve to distract people from what happened on Tuesday. Instead of focusing on the tragedy itself and how similar occurrences might be prevented, many are now focused on race, which has nothing to do with the lives that were lost and the devastating impact this collapse will have on the city’s residents.

For regular folks, this should be an important reminder to focus on what is important rather than following the narratives put out by some folks in influential positions. We can also take solace in the reality that the majority of people, regardless of which party they support, have not yet sacrificed their humanity for their political affiliation. Let’s hope it stays that way.

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