The Boy Scouts of America says it will require aspiring Eagle Scouts to earn a new “diversity and inclusion” merit badge before they can attain the organization’s highest rank.
Similar to other existing badges like “American Cultures” and “Citizenship in the Community,” the new badge will “require Scouts to learn about and engage with other groups and cultures to increase understanding and spur positive action,” the Boy Scouts said.
The organization made the announcement in a letter published online Tuesday, where it also endorsed the Black Lives Matter movement and pledged to “join the country’s resolve to do better.”
“We condemn the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and all those who are not named but are equally important,” the letter, signed by the organization’s 12-member national executive committee, read.
“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.”
In addition to the new merit badge requirement, the organization pledged to conduct a review of its programs, including property names, events and insignia, to ensure they encourage diversity and don’t further “symbols of oppression.”
BSA employees and volunteers will also be expected to complete a diversity and inclusion training in the coming months.
The new requirement represents a relatively timely decision for the Boy Scouts. Though the first all-Black troop dates back to 1911, BSA councils throughout the South didn’t start to integrate until 1974, according to the African American Registry.
While the organization says it banned any use of the Confederate flag nearly 30 years ago, it’s been slower to come to terms on other major issues. Gay scouts and girls weren’t allowed to join until 2013 and 2018, respectively, and decades of sex abuse allegations are only now starting to be reckoned with.
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