In a statement denouncing racism and addressing racial injustice, Boy Scouts of America voiced its support for Black Lives Matter with the introduction of a new badge to promote diversity and inclusion.
"We realize we have not been as brave as we should have been, because, as Scouts, we must always stand for what's right and take action when the situation demands it," Boy Scouts of America (BSA) said in a statement this week. "There is no place for racism — not in scouting and not in our communities. Racism will not be tolerated. We condemn the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, 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 part of the BSA's commitment to address racial injustice and promote diversity, members will now have to earn a "specific diversity and inclusion merit badge" to become an Eagle Scout, the highest rank you can receive. To earn the badge, scouts will be required "to learn about and engage with other groups and cultures to increase understanding and spur positive action."
"The Boy Scouts of America stands with Black families and the Black community, because we believe that Black Lives Matter," the organization said. "This is not a political issue, but a human rights issue and one we all have a duty to address."
The BSA will also review every element of its programs to ensure that the organization promotes racial equality and denounces racism, in addition to implementing required diversity training for all BSA employees. The BSA will ensure that systems of oppression, like the Confederate flag, are not in use today or in the future. The BSA banned the use of the Confederate flag from ceremonies in 1991, according to the Orlando Sentinel, after an 18-year-old white scout protested its use.
Although the first Black troop was formed in 1911, according to NPR, the BSA was not fully integrated until 1974. According to data from the BSA, only 6% of youth enrolled in the BSA's traditional program in 2018 were Black — white students counted for 68% of enrollment while 12% of the members enrolled in the BSA's Exploring program were Black. Over the years, the BSA has started programs like Scoutreach to help bring the mission of scouting to rural and urban communities that don't have resources to start or join a troop of their own.
Still, the BSA has acknowledged more work needs to be done. "These are our next steps, but certainly not our last," the BSA said. "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."