As part of a backlash against campaigns to highlight the historic and continuing effect of racism on inequalities in American life, Republican lawmakers in the United States are working to restrict the way race is discussed in politics. public schools.
Legislatures in more than a dozen states have considered bills that would regulate how teachers teach race-related issues in classrooms. Many aim to outlaw “critical race theory,” a school of thought that argues that great institutions in the United States are inherently racist and built by nature to perpetuate white supremacy.
Across the country, local school board meetings were filled with parents voicing their concerns. Fox News, a right-wing television network, aired segments warning of critical race theory for weeks.
The debate is part of the racial calculation of the United States
The moves come at a time when the United States continues to question how to tackle racial inequality, more than a year after protests and riots broke out across the country over the murder of George Floyd, a unarmed black man at the hands of a white policeman officer.
The math has divided Americans on how best to examine the forces in society that lead to inequalities based on race. This has forced Americans to take a critical look at their country that some would prefer to avoid.
“There is a desire for a good past and good ancestry. Americans find it difficult to hold things together in complex ways. I don’t think we’re very good at accepting good and evil together as part of our own heritage, ”said Marie Griffith, professor at the University of Washington and author of Making the World Over: Confronting Racism, La misogyny and xenophobia in the history of the United States.
“We can learn about the very difficult and painful parts of our past and do better without developing self-hatred. Your children are not going to start hating you and all of your ancestors just because they are learning this story. It should be an honor to grapple with this story.
Arkansas, Idaho, Tennessee, Florida and Oklahoma have already passed new laws that impose race-related restrictions on teaching in public schools. Other states are considering similar rules.
Republicans: critical race theory divides
Florida Republican Gov. Ron Desantis, who this week signed a bill to ban the teaching of critical race theory in public schools, said the new law would prevent children from learning that they are defined and restricted by race.
“I think it’s going to cause a lot of division,” Desantis said. “I think it will make people think of themselves more as a member of a particular race based on skin color, rather than their character content and hard work and what they are doing. try to accomplish in life. “
The Florida education system exists to create opportunities for our children. Critical Race Theory teaches children to hate our country and to hate each other. It is state sanctioned racism and has no place in Florida schools. pic.twitter.com/ludv7ARgNP
– Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) June 10, 2021
Tennessee law, which comes into effect July 1, prohibits instructors from teaching that “an individual, by reason of race or gender, is inherently privileged, racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously ”.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, said it was important for schools to emphasize “American exceptionalism” instead of dwelling on topics that “inherently divide”.
The new laws raise alarming questions about academic freedom and the power of state governments to restrict difficult – but important – conversations around race, said Adrienne Dixson, a University of Illinois professor of intersection of race and education.
“It’s unfortunate that politicians want to literally limit what we can know, what we can think and what we can talk about. It’s worrying, ”Dixson told Al Jazeera. “It should be scary for everyone no matter what you think of the breed.”
The main question dividing those on both sides is whether racism is thought to be a symptom of bad individual actors or an inherent flaw in America’s systems of government, business and education.
Jonathan Butcher, educational policy specialist at the conservative Heritage Foundation, argues that critical race theory perpetuates discriminatory attitudes rather than reducing them.
“It’s very different from saying these are individual acts that we condemn and saying that the US government or public institutions are inherently racist,” Butcher told Al Jazeera.
“It robs children of the opportunity to understand that this American promise of opportunity for everyone, regardless of skin color and equality under the law, is being offered to them.”
Dixson, however, said Critical Race Theory simply explores a truthful part of American life that has been around for a long time.
“Critical race theory or people of color are not making up history. This is the documented history. We know it factually. We count with this story and are careful not to repeat it, ”Dixson said.
“Racism doesn’t have to be an overt act where someone uses racial epithets or there are explicit policies to restrict people of color. But maybe it could be built into our politics in a way that we’re not aware of because we’ve internalized some rhetoric or beliefs about who deserves and who doesn’t.