An editorial today in the newspaper run by Nikole Hannah-Jones critic Walter Hussman defends the spate of state laws aimed at preventing the teaching of divisive concepts about race and gender.
The D-G insists these laws, specifically speaking of one in Oklahoma, don’t bar teaching about the many ugly elements of U.S. history. They merely are intended to prevent “indoctrination.” Just common sense.
Well, take a look at the new law in action, as promulgated by new rules of the state Board of Education It has harsh penalties for instruction that, among others, makes any individual feel “discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex.”
Broad brush. A white man/woman might feel a little discomfort, without any encouragement from a teacher, to read in graphic terms about what their ancestors did to Native Americans or enslaved people. If history makes a student feel bad, can it be taught in Oklahoma?
The Google machine offers many examples of teachers dismissed for teaching too much Black history. In Arkansas today, many lawmakers and others prefer history as seen through the eyes of the Lost Cause, with its benevolent overseers and happy enslaved people whistling in the cotton fields. The civil rights battle? OK, it happened, just don’t forget proper honors for white people, as Walter Hussman once said in criticizing the 1619 Project.
I’m confident history will eventually demonstrate that these laws have a further chilling effect on an already insufficient examination of difficult topics and that they limit First Amendment rights. Do you think Jason Rapert would stand silent if his local school district taught about Stonewall and the long slog to LGBT equality? As if it would dare.
Good Washington Post column by Karen Attiah about a Black woman and Black student who tried to hold the line against the Oklahoma white supremacy law the D-G defended this morning.
Carlisha Williams Bradley arrived knowing she would cast one of the most consequential votes of her professional life. The only Black member of the board, she wondered whether she would be removed from her position for pushing back. But the education advocate and former executive director of Tulsa Legacy Charter School spoke truth: that the right-wing’s current bête noire, “critical race theory” — which the legislature claimed to be responding to — means merely the examination of laws and legislation that uphold racism and oppression. Oklahoma’s new education law and harsh punishment, she said, would serve only to generate fear in teaching an accurate history of the United States.
“We are robbing students of the opportunity to have a high-quality education,” Williams Bradley said.
Williams Bradley had no allies on the board, but she found one among the public. “What does critical race theory mean to you?” pointedly asked Sapphira Lloyd, a 16-year-old Black student who attends Millwood Public Schools in Oklahoma City.
Lloyd got an answer from the six women who spoke before her, almost all of them White. One compared critical race theory to bullying. Another said it was reminiscent of the pretext to the Rwandan genocide. Some of them began to cry at the podium. The teenage Lloyd had the more adult attitude: “We should be able to discuss critical race topics no matter how ugly they may be and teach kids how to handle having hard conversations.”
And she came armed, too, with facts and history, a contrast to the fury and hyperbole on the other side. She knew that less than 10 percent of American high school seniors could identify slavery as the central cause of the Civil War, and that students are rarely taught that Thomas Jefferson believed that Black people were inferior to Whites.
Lloyd told the board that she was 8 when she had her first experience of racism. “It seems as though no one really truly cares about my experience … everyone else’s experiences matter, except for my life,” she testified — before heartbreakingly, in a country that often doesn’t allow Black children to be children, referring to herself as a woman. “Why is my having the right to live my life as a Black woman in America looked at as a political game?”
The answer is that, in some states, the white race card is a proven political winner. Teach all you want about Robert E. Lee, as long as you leave out the parts about him being a traitor and a cruel slave owner (and maybe not the military leader he is sometimes cracked up to be).