Former DEI director claims she was ousted for refusing to use pronouns, gender-neutral language

Dr. Tabia Lee, a former California diversity, equity, and inclusion director, alleges that she was fired from her position at a college after she was accused of “whitesplaining” and supporting white supremacy because she refused to use pronouns and gender-neutral language.

(Video Credit: Fox News)

Lee told Fox News Digital in an interview that early in her career in the ‘80s and ’90s, she pushed the use of pronouns to accommodate transgender people. But as things progressed, she claims that her experience as a DEI director showed her that the practice spiraled into a compulsion instead of support for people with different viewpoints.

She contends that she believed in promoting the use of pronouns because “people couldn’t see each other.”

“This became not something that was being done to support students or to support others, to make welcoming spaces for others. But a mandate that was being made by certain people working from particular ideological perspectives, and it wasn’t being done to help people,” Lee asserted.

“And actually many of my friends who are trans activists and non-binary people actually said all of this makes me feel uncomfortable because I’m constantly being demanded to state my pronouns,” she noted.

Lee claims she was also “accused of not being gender inclusive for not using the terms Latinx and Philippinx.”

“I shared with folks that in my background of teaching in ten years in largely Spanish-speaking communities, I had never heard that term,” she remarked. “And the people I worked with, the working-class people I worked with, I didn’t originate with them from what I could tell.”

“At the beginning of my career, I was very supportive of multiple things. But I’ve seen how they played out in the lives of students and beyond,” Lee continued.

The attacks against her allegedly began shortly after she took a position at De Anza Community College in August 2021. Her colleagues began accusing her of “whitesplaining” and supporting white supremacy which is, on its face, ridiculous since Lee is black. She claims that when she organized team meetings, she was further accused of “white speaking.”

“What you’re doing right now is you’re white speaking in your white slang, and you’re being transactional, you’re supporting white supremacy,” Lee recounted colleagues telling her.

“And I was like, whoa,'” she added. “I had never heard these terms before in all of my years of working 40 years in education now. No one had ever used that term towards me, and I had never heard anyone use that term towards anyone else.”

Next came a grueling review process that was meant to determine whether her contract with De Anza should be renewed. She was informed that she wouldn’t be recommended for the DEI Director position for De Anza “two weeks” before the academic institution’s Tenure Review Committee made a decision. Lee filed a grievance over the tenure review process.

Lee’s grievance pointed out alleged “irregularities and ideological bias” that occurred during her tenure review process. She claimed that during the process, a group of people went to the board of trustees representing the demands of the Latin-X Association and the Asian-Pacific American Staff Association, who wanted her immediately terminated.

“They said I wasn’t representing the ideas I was hired to represent with fidelity,” she stated. “They accused me of all kinds of things that anyone who has ever talked to me would know is not me and how I do my work.”

“The committee convenes. And they told me we are not unanimously recommending you,” Lee recalled. President of De Anza College Dr. Lloyd Holmes overruled the decision in 2022.

She received a letter this year not recommending her once again. This time, on March 7, the board of trustees decided to go with the recommendations.

An Inside Higher Ed article laid out Lee’s so-called transgressions that got her ousted.

“She questioned antiracist ‘orthodoxy,’ objected to the college’s land acknowledgments for an Indigenous tribe [because she wanted to include information recommended by the tribe, itself], tried to bring a ‘Jewish inclusion’ event to campus, declined to join a ‘socialist network,’ refused to use the gender‐​neutral terms ‘Latinx’ and ‘Filipinx,’ [which are not accepted by many in the Latino and Filipino community] inquired why the word ‘Black’ was capitalized but not ‘white,’ and allegedly disrespected a founder of the Black Lives Matter movement.”

Lee says she doesn’t identify with any political party.

“I encourage people to think critically at all times and to think about what they’re seeing, what they’re hearing, and what people are saying, you know, to them,” she said during the interview with Fox News Digital. “And why when it becomes something, where we’re just virtue signaling, are doing things to show that we align with a certain ideology; that’s something that I can’t stand by.”

The Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism (FAIR) is now representing Lee. They are a nonpartisan, non-profit, civil-rights organization. She hasn’t decided whether or not to pursue legal action against De Anza Community College.

Erec Smith, who is a Visiting Scholar of Politics and Society for the Cato Institute and an Associate Professor of Rhetoric at York College of Pennsylvania, remarked, “As I’ve similarly experienced, Dr. Lee is being punished for being ‘the wrong kind of black person:’ one dedicated to classical liberal understandings of equality, individualism, reason, and free speech.”

“The fact that a black person can be accused of perpetuating white supremacy for upholding these tenets and basically abiding by the same understanding of diversity indicative of the Civil Rights Movement should be the last straw for those discouraged and disquieted by contemporary diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, and a wake up call for those encouraged to implement such initiatives,” he wrote. “The University of North Carolina and several universities in Texas either have taken or are taking steps to take mandatory diversity statements out of the job application and tenure process. Hopefully Dr. Lee’s experience will motivate other institutions to follow suit.”

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