Republicans in nine states have begun efforts to prevent schools from teaching critical race theory, which connects discrimination based on race to the U.S. legal system and the foundations of the country, Axios reports.
Whether or not to include history lessons on systemic racism has become a hot-button issue in the U.S. after a year of reckoning with violence against Black men following the killing of George Floyd and others. Conservatives have largely come out against the idea, with Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) signing a bill that bans the teaching of the subject in public schools.
“We need to make sure that our kids recognize that this country is moving toward a more perfect union, that we should teach the exceptionalism of our nation and how people can live together and work together to make a greater nation, and to not teach things that inherently divide or pit either Americans against Americans or people groups against people groups,” Lee told reporters after signing the bill on Monday, according to the Associated Press.
GOP governors from Idaho and Oklahoma have signed similar legislation, and Arkansas, Arizona, Missouri and Utah are all working on their own versions.
Texas’ state Senate approved a bill earlier this week that would ban the teaching of critical race theory in public and open-enrollment charter schools and to eliminate the requirements that students read the writings by women and people of color.
Utah Rep. Burgess Owens, a Republican, said that local school officials who support critical race theory should be dismissed from their jobs.
"Fire them. Get rid of them," Owens told Newsmax on Sunday. "That ideology is against everything we believe in. We need to fire everyone we can find, and those we will fire later on, we’ll figure out a way to get rid of them, too.”
“It’s a big issue,” Ohio state Rep. Don Jones, a Republican who introduced a bill to ban critical race theory in Ohio schools, told WCPO in Cincinnati. “A great concern to a lot of people because of the fact that we are starting at such a young age.”
He added: “We cannot start indoctrinating our young people with the fact we have a better situation or worse situation just because of the color of our skin or the way we were born. We had no choice whether we were born male or female or Black or white. We are who we are.”
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center historian Chris Miller said that critical race theory deserves to be considered.
“It’s important because it talks about the truth,” he said. “It looks at examining law and its intersection with race.”
Miller said he’s grateful that the Freedom Center exists if discussions such as this cannot take place in a classroom.
“The reality is that racism has been woven into the social fabric of our society and casting a blind eye to it or not acknowledging it will not improve things,” he said. “You have to have these critical conversations about race, have these critical conversations about how law intersects with race. Because this is the root, the origin of the fruit we are dealing with here today.”
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