A Kentucky state lawmaker has proposed a measure that would subject schools to fines and teachers to disciplinary action if they talk about systemic racism in a certain way.
Fort Thomas Republican Representative Joe Fischer has pre-tabled the bill before the next legislative session. It targets critical race theory: the idea that racism is perpetuated on a systemic level. The framework has been around for decades, but it gained more attention after last year’s calls for racial justice.
Now these ideas are facing a conservative backlash, including from Kentucky conservatives like Fischer.
“[Critical race theory] is a powerful tool for those who seek to divide us into categories and destroy the very institutions that have seen generations of Americans of all races and backgrounds build prosperous futures, ”Fischer said in an emailed statement Wednesday by the office of the President of the Chamber.
Four GOP-led state legislatures, including Idaho, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, have already passed laws limiting how teachers can talk about systemic racism.
While Fischer has said his bill seeks to ban critical race theory, many concepts that he would prevent public schools from promoting fall outside the framework of critical race theory. These include:
- One race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex
- An individual, by reason of race or gender, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously;
- An individual should be discriminated against or receive unfavorable treatment solely or in part on the basis of their race or gender
- The moral character of an individual is determined by race or sex
- An individual, by reason of race or sex, bears responsibility for acts committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex
- A person must experience discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress due to their race or gender.
- Promote or advocate the violent overthrow of the United States government
In contrast, Janel George, a professor at Georgetown University, describes critical race theory as the recognition that our ideas about racial difference have been socially constructed.
“It recognizes how this social construction of race has shaped America and how systems and institutions can do most of the breeding of racial inequalities,” she writes.
For example, Critical Race Theory is often used to examine the criminal justice system, which disproportionately incarcerates blacks and other people of color.
The bill would also prohibit schools from teaching that the state or country “is fundamentally or irreparably racist or sexist.”
The measure would allow “citizens” of the school district to file complaints about alleged violations of these rules and would give the attorney general the power to withhold $ 5,000 per day from the district until the alleged violation ceases. It would also discipline school employees who break the rules.
The bill drew rapid criticism from educators on social media.
“This is not just educational censorship, but a reaffirmation of white supremacy by forbidding teachers to discuss it in any substantive way,” tweeted Ricky Jones, chair of the Department of Pan-African Studies at the University of Louisville.
This is not just educational censorship, but a reaffirmation of white supremacy by forbidding teachers to discuss it in any substantive way. Par for the course in the Bluegrass State, I guess. Do better, Kentucky. Smh. #Backward https://t.co/K6Atx4nIQG
– Ricky L. Jones (@DrRickyLJones) June 1, 2021
“I oppose efforts to limit free speech and the exchange of ideas in our classrooms. I also oppose state-level and politically motivated efforts to micromanage our local teachers, ”Kentucky Education Commissioner Jason Glass said in a statement posted on Twitter by a spokesperson. of the department.
US Senator Mitch McConnell said he had no opinion when asked about the bill on Wednesday.
But McConnell has expressed concern about Project 1619. The senator has been candid in his criticism of the collection of essays and the podcast, which examines the contributions and struggles of blacks in America, since the arrival of the first Africans in poverty. slavery in 1619.
The Pulitzer Center also created a school curriculum based on Project 1619, which the Biden administration suggested schools could use to teach systemic racism. Today, the project and the program are catching fire from the Conservatives.
“I think trying to completely denigrate and degrade American historical moments like 1776, 1787, 1965 – critical moments – is a mistake,” McConnell said. “But I don’t think the government is better at prescribing what should be taught.”
In a press release, Fischer said he filed his bill request after Highlands High School at Fort Thomas considered including Critical Race Theory in the 2021-2022 curriculum. The local school decision-making council ultimately rejected the proposal, he said.