Commentary

It is disheartening to see token representation prioritized over genuine diversity and inclusion. The narrow definition of the term “racial minority” for appointment to the University of Louisville’s Board of Trustees unnecessarily pits blacks against Latin@s. We should join together to advocate for genuine inclusion of all historically underrepresented groups in our community.

Gov. Steve Beshear created the conflict when he chose to deny representation to African-Americans by failing to replace an African-American Board member while simultaneously appointing Paul Diaz, the first Latino board member. For the first time in 45 years, there were no governor-appointed black board members. We all should oppose this inexplicable and unacceptable exclusion.

Enid Trucios-HaynesJ. Tyler Franklin | wfpl.org

Enid Trucios-Haynes

Gov. Beshear defended his action by implying that all non-white groups are fungible and can stand in for each other — an obvious fallacy. He proposed that Paul Diaz, as a minority, satisfied the statutory requirement to reflect a proportional representation of racial minorities.

Clearly, Latin@s do not represent the views of African-Americans, although Latin@s share many similar concerns. Did the governor really believe it was acceptable to appoint only one token minority board member to represent all historically underrepresented groups?

The Kentucky Justice Resource Center adopts another limited view — that Latin@s are not a racial minority and should not be included in the diversity and inclusion goals for board appointments. It refers to Census categories — an unreliable indicator of how race is defined today, which is primarily through self-identification. And, until the 2010 census, “no single set of racial categories has been used in more than two censuses, and most were only used once” (Martin, 2012).

This argument is built on the false premise that racial categories are defined exclusively within a black-white dichotomy. This is no longer true in Kentucky or anywhere else in this country. Public policy discussions about discrimination, educational achievement, incarceration rates and voting representation focus on both Latin@s and African-Americans. Moreover, a 2015 Pew Research Center report showed that a majority of Latin@s view themselves as part of the Latin@ racial group.

Gov. Matt Bevin similarly promotes an outdated view of minority representation. He effectively purged the sole Latino board member by pressuring Paul Diaz to resign, despite the Attorney General opinion stating that “both Hispanics and African Americans qualify as racial minorities for the purposes of the appointments to state boards.”

Both governors have justified their actions based on obsolete interpretations of the term “minority” to first exclude African-Americans and later exclude Latin@s. The question we should ask is not whether Latin@s are a racial minority but why both governors have pursued policies that reject any meaningful diversity and inclusion. This also is truly unacceptable.

Enid Trucios-Haynes is a professor of law at the Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville and on the board of several local organizations including the ACLU of Kentucky, La Casita Center, and the Hispanic Latino Coalition of Louisville.

Read more WFPL commentaries.