Recently I’ve been hearing claims from corporate media such as The New York Times as well as an avalanche of blue checks on Twitter that the recent Texas bill HB 3979 banning the mandatory teaching of Critical Race Theory in schools is somehow akin to whitewashing history. They claim these bills ban the teaching of the history of slavery, the legacy of Jim Crow, and the history of white supremacy and racism in this country.
All that is needed to evaluate the truth or falsity of these claims is to read the bill (it’s only five pages long). Reading NYT opinion pieces, listening to talking heads on cable news or NPR, relying on Politifact or Snopes entries to tell you what’s true, and jumping on the bandwagon of ‘what people are saying’ do not equal due diligence. If you truly want to find out the truth about what these bills do, go directly to the source and read the actual bills. My hypothesis is, people who are inclined to believe these claims don’t actually want to know what the Texas bill says. They would rather stick with what their tribe says that it says, instead of committing to the due diligence of doing their own fact finding and thinking for themselves.
It is much easier to subcontract out independent thinking and fact finding to someone else. It’s also safer to believe whatever your tribe is telling you, because what if you look into it for yourself and find out they are lying? Besides, it’s fun for people to read the story in the NYT or hear it on NPR: “Republicans are banning the teaching of slavery in Texas”, and exclaim to their friends and family, “Did you hear what those racist Republicans are doing now? They’re banning the teaching of the history of slavery and racism in schools! Gasp! Those evil, sick fascists, what will they do next!” The thing is, this tendency to be tribal and rely on others to do our thinking for us is hardwired into us. It’s our default mode to be this way. But we also have the capacity as humans to rise above our tribal and sheeplike nature and overcome that tendency. We have the capacity to ask questions, follow the evidence where it leads, and decide what is true for ourselves based on said evidence. Let’s do that, with this issue, shall we?
So, let us look at what the Texas bill actually says. The meat of the bill is below:
(6) “No teacher, administrator, or other employee in any state agency, school district, campus, open-enrollment charter school, or school administration shall require, or make part of a course the following concepts:
(1) one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex;
(2) an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously;
(3) an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex;
(4) members of one race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race or sex;
(5) an individual ’s moral character is necessarily determined by his or her race or sex;
(6) an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex;
(7) any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex;
(8) meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist, or were created by members of a particular race to oppress members of another race.
As you can see, this bill does nothing that the New York Times says it does. It does not ban the teaching of slavery or the history of racism in America. What it does do is prevent schools from pushing racial essentialism and collective ancestral guilt on children. It prevents teachers from demonizing and shaming children for their immutable characteristics. It honors the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, who would have supported this bill. It is congruent with the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibiting racial discrimination.
It prevents teachers from judging children based on the color of their skin or the sex into which they were born. It prevents teachers from putting the guilt of dead ancestors on the shoulders of children. The moral code of judging a person based only on their own actions, and not judging them based on what their ancestors did is thousands of years old. For example, The Bible forbids judging people for the ‘sins of the father’. Ezekiel 18:19-20 “Yet you say, ‘Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?’ When the son has done what is just and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”
It is basic common sense that shaming children for things that their ancestors may have participated in long before they were born is immoral to the core. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Anyone who actually believes it is moral and right to demonize children and assign moral value to them based on their skin color or sex has gone so far off the moral deep end, I don’t know if they can be helped. I hope most of the people believing these slanderous claims of corporate media on this bill are doing so out of tribalism and ignorance. I hope that if they knew the truth and actually read the bill, they’d agree with it. I hope with all my heart they don’t actually believe it’s ethical to assign moral worth to children based on their race or sex. If they do, we are in bigger trouble than we realize, and I fear we won’t be able to stay together as a country. This moral divide cannot be bridged.