Governor Tate Reeves and House Speaker Phillip Gunn have both expressed not just opposition to the body of work or construct called Critical Race Theory but a willingness to have the state legislature ban the teaching of it from the public schools. Their positions are not surprising but are disappointing. The positions are disappointing because they miss the mark so badly. On the one hand, Critical Race Theory is a body of work or theoretical explanation that is taught in or identified with law schools and the explanation of America’s legal history. It is not a curriculum to which elementary and secondary students are exposed. It is not even an element of teacher education programs. In keeping with that reality, State Superintendent of Education, Dr. Carey Wright, has clearly stated that Critical Race Theory is not something that is a part of the set of standards approved by the state and is therefore not being taught in the schools. On the other hand, it is disappointing that leaders of the stature, such as the governor and House speaker, do not know better or at least that they feign ignorance in their understanding of what Critical Race Theory is and is not after so much public discussion of the matter.
Having said that about the source of the disappointment, we are not surprised because we realize that they stand where they do on the issue because of state and national politics. They want to be on the side of and in the good graces of Donald Trump and other openly racist citizens and groups. It is the popular stance for them in the climate in which they operate. It is a stance wherein they hope to keep hoodwinking the majority of the people in order to seize and/or retain power.
They would display more intellectual honesty, however, if they were to say what it is that they really oppose being taught in the schools. Like many of their politically-spiritual brothers and sisters, what they oppose is teaching the full truth about American slavery; about how white supremacy, as a practicing concept, affected Native Americans, Africans brought to this country, and non-white people who migrated to the country. What they oppose is the historical exposure of Jim Crow laws, policies and practices; the murder and robbery of non-white people. They are opposed to teaching the true history that explains why non-white groups are so far behind or disadvantaged in this country, compared to white people. They are opposed to the explanation behind the deliberate creation of “Black” and “white” people in American law in the first place.
These kinds of truths are merely genuine American history or authentic Black history. They are not the same thing as Critical Race Theory, although they do share many basic facts. What people like Reeves and Gunn oppose is the teaching of the truth regarding racism in America’s history. They would white-wash or propagandize the youth as they have often accused Russia and other dictatorial regimes of doing in the past. Doing this would help them hold onto wealth and power.
There has been the lame excuse offered of not wanting to cause white children to be ashamed of being white, based upon what they learn from history. On the contrary, it would be refreshing to see their children decide to fully embrace all people as sisters and brothers in reaction to what they have learned from history. On the other hand, avoiding teaching the truth will simply allow white supremacy to strengthen and grow. It would leave unchallenged the myth that white people are on top because they are superior. It would protect the privileges and advantages in the laws and policies erected by white people over the years, as if that is the way things are supposed to be.
The fight which Reeves, Gunn, and others are so willing to join is one that should have been over years ago. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, there were many studies conducted that showed how the full and true history of race and racism were systematically omitted from school curricula and textbooks. Across the country, many schools and colleges attempted to address the problem in various ways. In the Jackson Public School District, for an example, Dr. Ollye Shirley, as school board president, contracted with Dr. James Banks to provide workshops for faculty and staff to infuse relevant material and strategies into its curriculum. Other districts and teacher education programs did similar things. There is even a state law on the books requiring the teaching of the Civil Rights Movement.
It would be a step up if Reeves, Gunn, et al. were just opposed to the teaching of Critical Race Theory in the public schools, leaving it to law schools. Their broadside, however, is much more encompassing and destructive than what they are calling opposition to Critical Race Theory. Their attack stems from and covers everything about white supremacy. Their fight is an attempt to turn the clock back to the pre-1960s. Their effort is about censorship to the point of propagandizing in order to bolster the myth of white supremacy.