House Bill 3979, otherwise known as the ‘critical race theory bill’, passed in the US Senate over the weekend much to the protest of teachers across the country. The Dallas Independent School District board passed a resolution opposing the Texas bill citing that the “legislation [will] threaten the essential work that the District is doing to celebrate diversity and would greatly hinder efforts to create inclusive and equitable learning environments and develop more informed, engaged citizens.”
Others celebrated the news. Republican lieutenant governor Dan Patrick supported the bill, stating, “[It] makes certain that critical race philosophies, including the 1619 founding myth, are removed from our school curriculums statewide. [So] students [can] learn critical thinking without being indoctrinated with misinformation charging that America and our Constitution are rooted in racism.” Wow. Yes, you read that right. Texas’ passing of such a bill has unfortunately become a trend in recent months, with the state of Idaho successfully passing its own critical race legislation earlier this May. It looks like it’s time for another wake-up call for the US. Let’s take a deeper look at how incredibly damaging this is.
In order for us to understand the implications of such a bill, we must first understand critical race theory (CRT) itself. CRT has been a concept in academia for around 40 years; at its heart, it recognises that racism and prejudice are not simply individual biases but part of a systemic social construct embedded in all institutions. Senior writer for CNN Digital, Faith Karimi, writes in an article that “critical race theory recognises that systemic racism is part of American society and challenges the beliefs that allow it to flourish.” Without it in education, these systemic issues can and will flourish. The irony in this is that the education system itself is an institution entrapped in systemic racism, so are we even shocked?
Although House Bill 3979 doesn’t specifically use the word ‘ban,’ Democratic state Representative James Talarico, a vocal critic of the bill, told HuffPost “[It’s] written in kind of a clever way. You can talk about race in the classroom, but you can’t talk about privilege or white supremacy. […] The idea is to put in landmines so any conversation about race in the classroom would be impossible.” The bill, which passed in an 18 to 13 Senate vote, has some extremely limiting policies.
It states that “no teacher, administrator, or other employee […] shall be required to engage in training” of any form in subjects pertaining to sexism and racism. It continues by giving eight rules of how racism can not be discussed. Instead, it focuses civic education on “the fundamental moral, political, and intellectual foundations of the American experiment” and “the founding documents of the United States, including the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution […] and the writings of the Founding Fathers of the United States.”
Some people may say, ‘Well this is good—it’s not racist, it’s just getting rid of ‘woke’ culture in the classroom’. I am not one of those people. To ignore critical race theory is to ignore the fundamental building blocks that our society is unfortunately built on. Removing this from our education system erases the devastating impacts that colonisation and systemic racism has had on the world and on the lives of BIPOC communities. To me, that is racist.
In a video that surfaced on Twitter, Talarico grills the bill’s author Republican Steve Toth. “Would you be open to an amendment requiring that in the civics classroom that we teach the history of white supremacy and that we teach our students that it’s morally wrong?” to which Toth later replied, “No, I’m not.” Democrat Talarico, shocked, proceeds to repeat the question, adding that “it’s a simple question.”
It seems this rhetoric is all too common on our side of the pond too. In October 2020, the conservative government began targeting critical race theory as well. Undoubtedly envious of the culture war Donald Trump spearheaded against the terrifying leftist agenda, the Tories decided they too wanted to take on this fictitious monster. The irony is that CRT is actually still pretty marginal in the UK so there doesn’t seem much to ‘fight’. In a Twitter thread, academic Kojo Koram writes, “Clearly, Google has told them that critical race theory is just people shouting about ‘white privilege’ etc so here is an idiot’s guide to CRT to help.”
He goes on to say, “There are certainly critiques that can be made of the tradition […] but to pretend it is a dangerous illegitimate sphere of academic inquiry is just pathetic.” The banning of critical race theory in education is a blatant attempt at destroying critical thinking in young people—it places BIPOC students in harmful environments, prevents progress and brings in a more regimented nationalist indoctrination.