The Boy Scouts of America is the Big Daddy of American youth organizations, and papa’s got a brand new badge.
In a letter posted online Monday, the BSA’s National Executive Committee announced a modern addition to the requirement of advancement to Eagle Scout, the bunch’s highest rank: a “diversity and inclusion” certification.
“We condemn the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor,” the letter says, “and all those who are not named but are equally important. We hear the anguish, feel the heartbreak, and join the country’s resolve to do better.”
As per the letter, the issue at hand is one of human rights, not politics:
“The Boy Scouts of America stands with Black families and the Black community because we believe that Black Lives Matter. This is not a political issue; it is a human rights issue and one we all have a duty to address.”
And in addressing it, the BSA is “introducing a specific diversity and inclusion merit badge that will be required for the rank of Eagle Scout.”
The organization will also be “reviewing every element of [its] programs to ensure diversity and inclusion are engrained at every level…by applying a standard that promotes racial equality and denounces racism, discrimination, inequality and injustice.”
Moreover, the BSA will require “diversity and inclusion training for all…employees” beginning July 1st. In the coming months, it’ll produce an instructive version for volunteers.
They’re goin’ deep, folks — the group’ll also be “conducting a review of property names, events and insignia, in partnership with local councils, to build on and enhance the organization’s nearly 30-year ban on use of the Confederate flag and to ensure that symbols of oppression are not in use today or in the future.”
It’s a start:
“We will also continue to listen more, learn more and do more to promote a culture in which every person feels that they belong, are respected, and are valued in Scouting, in their community, and across America.”
The new badge will “build on components within existing merit badges,” among them the Citizenship in the Community and American Cultures badges. Those involve learning about and engaging “with other groups and cultures to increase understanding and spur positive action.”
The 2.2-million-participant BSA believes the current state of America calls for courageous action:
“As our country reckons with racial injustice, we all must consider our role and our failures and commit to meaningful action. … Brave means taking action because it is the right thing to do and being an upstander even when it may prompt criticism from some. We realize we have not been as brave as we should have been because, as Scouts, we must always stand for what is right and take action when the situation demands it.”
The 120-year-old organization has certainly taken a great deal of action over the last while — as covered by Brandon Morse in December, it moved to allow openly gay scouts in 2013 and gay scoutmasters in 2015. Three years later, boy, did it make a change: Relabeling itself the “BSA,” for the first time, the group welcomed girls.
Monday’s letter concludes thusly:
“As a movement, we are committed to working together with our employees, volunteers, youth members, and communities so we can all become a better version of ourselves and continue to prepare young people to become the leaders of character our communities and our country need to heal and grow.”
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