Kasey Rhone

Kasey Rhone

Diversity, equity, and inclusion matter.

I don’t just say this because it is my bread and butter. I say this because we are better when we are all welcome, considered, and valued. When we are all supported and integral parts of our community, inclusion – with the tools we need to succeed, like equity – we are free to develop our unique skills and talents. That means diversity.

Ron DeSantis — whom I always want to call Rick — has banned DEI programs in public colleges. I’ve written once about what I think of public officials who try to dictate how learners in their states think, and I stand by my words. It is despicable and a bid for power by making sure learners – and by extension, voters – remain ignorant and easily led.

What I find interesting is this ban could be a double-edged sword. DeSantis has banned funds from being used to “promote or engage in social or political activism.” For someone whose website describes him as a “pinnacle of freedom,” it sounds like he could use a refresher on what the First Amendment is about. Banning college students from engaging with programming that allows them to become politically or socially active in their communities and on their campuses is ludicrous.

I was a non-traditional college student. I didn’t gain some deep political awakening in college. I did, however, learn to refine my views. My professors and classmates challenged my own perspective and beliefs, and I was forced to interrogate them and decide if they were worth defending or letting them go. Being in class with students who were younger than me, with faculty that was older, with people who grew up in rural areas, and many who were from different cultural backgrounds, expanded my views. Graduate school took it even further, in working on projects with international students, with faculty and staff from all over the world, made me realize while we are all so small in a world full of experiences and lives we know nothing about, when we get together and share our unique ideas, talents, and views in places we feel safe and have what we need to thrive, there is nothing we, as humans, can’t do.

Watching my younger college peers, and my international peers, navigate shedding ideas they inherited from their families and communities or weaving them with new perspectives they were gaining in college made me passionate about being more vocal about social and political issues in my community. I wanted them — and my own children — to see an older person learning, growing, and standing up for what they felt was right.

I know people like Ron DeSantis see difference as dangerous, and for those who have historically not been privileged, when others begin to enjoy a taste of the same comforts they have known for a lifetime, it feels like a loss of something. If people like DeSantis moved from a place of curiosity, understanding or even love, they would know that allowing people space to explore who they are, and to learn about others, only enriches us all. I am afraid Oklahoma will follow suit in this. We love to be Florida’s little sibling. I hope we don’t, though.

Kasey Rhone is an active engaged Oklahoma citizen.

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