Conservatives Want to Ban Studies That Examine Racism

Yesterday, on the heels of the Derek Chauvin verdict just one week earlier, Idaho state lawmakers voted for HB 377. The bill would essentially ban critical race theory (CRT) from being taught in schools. Language from the bill states that these teachings “exacerbate and inflame divisions on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or other criteria in ways contrary to the unity of the nation and the well-being of the state of Idaho and its citizens.”

In what appears to be a coordinated effort, similar legislation has been introduced in seven other states to prevent schools from teaching CRT, including Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.

This follows former President Trump’s Executive Order (EO) 13950 that excluded diversity and inclusivity training that could be interpreted as containing “Divisive Concepts” from federal contracts.

On his first day in office, President Joe Biden rescinded Trump’s EO, but legislators have continued to push forward at the state and local level with varying success. In March, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis excluded CRT from the state school curriculum. In April on the other side of the country, protests erupted at an Orange County school board meeting against a new ethnic studies class.

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When President Trump issued the EO, he went on the record saying, “Students in our universities are inundated with critical race theory. This is a Marxist doctrine holding that America is a wicked and racist nation, that even young children are complicit in oppression, and that our entire society must be radically transformed.”

Despite Republican fearmongering, CRT is not in fact a doctrine that admonishes young children. Critical race theory is a longstanding branch of legal scholarship developed originally by Black law professor Derrick Bell that examines how racism impacts the law. Its proponents argue that “law [is] historically central to and complicit in upholding racial hierarchy as well as hierarchies of gender, class, and sexual orientation.”

We can continue to expect this flurry of conservative legislative activity as more institutions begin to examine the role of racism in American society.