Texas Republicans Pass Bill Stopping Teachers From Teaching About Racism In Classrooms
“The idea is to whitewash American history of any legacy of racism and white supremacy,” Rep. James Talarico said
May 12, 2021 at 6:22 pm
Lawmakers in the Texas House of Representatives passed a bill on Tuesday that prohibits critical race theory from being taught in classrooms.
Critical race theory is a concept that acknowledges that racism is inextricably linked to American culture. The theory, which has been used for decades, examines and challenges the systems implemented into American society that have perpetuated racism since the country’s inception, CNN reports.
"Critical race theory is a practice. It's an approach to grappling with a history of white supremacy that rejects the belief that what's in the past is in the past, and that the laws and systems that grow from that past are detached from it,” Kimberlé Crenshaw, a founding critical race theorist and a law professor who teaches at UCLA and Columbia University, told CNN.
"Like American history itself, a proper understanding of the ground upon which we stand requires a balanced assessment, not a simplistic commitment to jingoistic accounts of our nation's past and current dynamics,” she added.
H.B. 3979 was passed with a 79-65 vote, with nearly all Republicans voting in favor of the bill. The legislation will not require teachers to discuss racism and current events. If they choose to do so, they must remain objective in their instruction.
Republicans in Texas argue that unpacking controversial politics is not up to the teachers, but rather the students’ parents.
“I don’t wanna see a certain ideological agenda being dominated in our schools,” Republican Party of Texas Chair Col. Allen West said, according to NBC Austin. “We should be educating our children, not indoctrinating them.”
Social studies instructors have admitted that this past year has been increasingly difficult considering the Black Lives Matter protests which swept the nation last summer through the pandemic. Now more than ever, they have had to “navigate some really challenging conversations.”
West, who is Black, added “It’s not social studies, it’s revisionist history.”
According to CNN, critical race theorists believe that racism is an everyday occurrence for most people of color and that a large part of society has no interest in eliminating it because it benefits white people.
“The bill is written in kind of a clever way,” Democratic state Rep. James Talarico, said, HuffPost reported. “You can talk about race in the classroom, but you can’t talk about privilege or white supremacy. It doesn’t outright ban talking about race, but the idea is to put in landmines so any conversation about race in the classroom would be impossible.”
“The idea is to whitewash American history of any legacy of racism and white supremacy,” he added. “The scope of this bill is very broad and is going to have a chilling effect on social studies and civics teachers across the state.”
Talarico is a staunch opposer of the bill, among other lawmakers including Rep. Mary Gonzalez, who questioned the bill’s integrity during her speech on the House floor.
“Are we a body that wants to punish teachers for trying to facilitate holistic growth and understanding? Are we a body that limits free speech?” she asked.
During an interrogation, Talarico blasted the bill’s language.
“Would you be open to an amendment requiring that we teach the history of white supremacy and teach students that it’s morally wrong?” Talarico asked Rep. Steve Toth, who authored the legislation.
“No,” Toth replied. “I’m not.”
“Rep. Toth, your lengthy bill about civics makes no effort to teach the history of racism or white supremacy and its impact on the founding of our country —politically, socially, economically,” Talarico said. “The only thing you’re doing is preventing us from talking about race in a way that makes you uncomfortable.”
Toth also recently amended his bill to ban mandatory teaching of the 1619 Project, a New York Times initiative that aims to reframe any disparaging narratives around slavery and race.
“This amendment is about making sure that history is taught and not a journalistic creative story that someone came up with,” Toth responded, alluding to the 1619 Project.
Ultimately, the new legislation is part of a widespread conservative effort to prevent racial, political and economic polarization from entering the classroom.
In a recent Atlantic/Leger poll, 52% of respondents who identified as Republicans said that states should pass laws banning schools from teaching critical race theory, the Atlantic reported.