On Monday 24th of May 2021, The Tennessee Republican Governor signed a bill into law that will deny public school teachers from teaching students critical race theory such as racism, white privilege, and unconscious bias. In other words, what the governor’s new law entails is the proverbial saying see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil in all matters race-related, and that in a nutshell is what is wrong with America’s race problems. Every time Americans take two steps forward in addressing racism, politicians like Governor Bill Lee of Tennessee walk three steps back, making any progress made look like a hopeless endeavor.
The new law, which will take effect in Tennessee for the 2021/2022 school year, will have serious repercussions, including cutting funds for those schools whose teachers promote the teaching of social issues such as sexism, bias, and racism. What is the point of education in Tennessee if they cannot learn about the state’s history with racism? How does denying the cancer of racism in our society a solution when the same cancer is on display in today’s world of cell phone cameras for all the world to see?
The problem in Tennessee is not because there are racial problems, as every society has social issues. The problem is the denial and imposing of what students can learn about their community and history; for how else are Americans supposed to eradicate or confront racism and every social problem when students are denied the knowledge of the issues?
A spokesperson for the Tennessee Governor in a statement addressing the new bill said, “The Governor signed the bill and believes Tennessee students should be taught history and civics with facts, not divisive political commentary.” Tennessee has a history of racial problems; as reports suggest.
Troubled by the censorship the new bill is designed to create in teaching students about racial issues, Hedy Weinberg, the executive director of American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, in a statement, said,
“We are very troubled by Governor Lee’s censorship of discussions of race in the classroom. With the stroke of a pen, the governor has silenced constructive dialogue that would educate individuals on the discrimination and systemic barriers that people of color still face in this country — including long-term inequalities in educational outcomes, incarceration rates, economic advancement, and health outcomes — as well as ways we can move forward together. The governor appears to have amnesia about his own words: ‘history without understanding is quickly forgotten.’ While the governor may seek to whitewash history by signing this bill, we will not only remember the painful legacy our state is built on but his lack of leadership today.”
As if the Republican party leaders in Tennessee’s ban for teaching students critical race theory was not enough, Congressman Mark Green of Tennessee introduced a bill to block critical race theory taught in US Military Service Academies. Mark Greene, a former Westpoint graduate said,
“Critical Race Theory is based on a massive and purposeful misunderstanding of the American founding, American history, and America as it exists today. This is a Marxist ideology created to tear American institutions down. It teaches Americans and members of the Armed Services to judge one another by the color of their skin instead of by the “content of their character.” America should never go back to this kind of thinking. A curriculum based on Critical Race Theory seeks to divide Americans instead of unite them.”
The only problem with the Congressman’s lamenting remarks is that past and current American history is enough evidence of racism in America.
While Democrats, including the Memphis City Council and Shelby County, called unanimously voted against the bill, Tennessee now joins Idaho and Oklahoma as states that ban the teaching of systemic racism in classrooms. While the affected communities in Tennessee come to terms with the ban, does the governor think he is uniting Tennesseans or do you think he reversed the progress in race relations made over the years?