According to the Texas Legislature Online, teaching on past and current race-related issues will now be restricted under a new law signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday, June 15.
The legislation has now thrust the Southern state into a small but growing group of states that have passed a bill aimed at banning the teaching of critical race theory, — a term coined decades ago by UCLA and Columbia University law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw that she recently described to CNN as “an approach to grappling with a history of white supremacy that rejects the belief that what’s in the past is in the past, and that the laws and systems that grow from that past are detached from it.” This new rule in Texas would go into effect on Sept. 1.
Critical race theory was a fairly obscure discipline mostly confined to university-level academe until last summer, when a little-known filmmaker named Christopher Rufo introduced the concept into the right-wing zeitgeist through a high-profile interview last fall with Fox News host Tucker Carlson in which he assailed diversity training initiatives in government. For Ruso, CRT became a useful umbrella term conservatives could apply to a variety of socio-cultural ideas they take issue with, as he admitted to The New Yorker in a recent interview.
“‘Cancel culture’ is a vacuous term and doesn’t translate into a political program; ‘woke’ is a good epithet, but it’s too broad, too terminal, too easily brushed aside. ‘Critical race theory’ is the perfect villain,” Rufo wrote to the magazine for its profile on him.
In Texas, where the idea of the dangers of critical race theory clearly seems to have gained traction among conservatives, the new law further states that schools cannot teach that “an individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual’s race or sex.” Other restrictions state that schools cannot “require an understanding of The 1619 Project,” a project published in The New York Times Magazine investigating the history of slavery and race relations in the United States.
Furthermore, schools are not allowed to teach that “an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex.” However, the bill did provide a list of historical texts that are allowed including Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and “I Have a Dream” speech.
Students must also be taught “the history of white supremacy, including but not limited to the institution of slavery, the eugenics movement, and the Ku Klux Klan, and the ways in which it is morally wrong.”
The new measure came in the same week that President Joe Biden signed into law a bill designating June 19 as the Juneteenth National Independence Day federal holiday. Abbott’s signing sparked outrage as many were celebrating the victory.
“Juneteenth being made a federal holiday the same year governors are removing critical race theory from classrooms…. We really live in the f-ckin twilight zone,” wrote one Twitter user. Another person replied to the post, commenting, “Being an American is an oxymoron.” They added, “It’s a land of opportunity that denied opportunities for black people over 200 years. Make it make sense.”
CNN political analyst Astead Wesley wrote, “Its kinda amazing: juneteenth is gonna be a federal holiday for reasons teachers won’t be allowed to explain to their students out of fear critical race theory backlash.”
“Gaslighting is making Juneteenth a federal holiday while banning critical race theory in schools, destabilizing COVID mutual aid efforts, refusing to defund and abolish police, and blocking reparations legislation,” expressed a third. “Go play in someone else’s face, America.”
Texas joins Florida, Idaho, Oklahoma, Arkansas and plenty more states that have either introduced or adopted some form of the controversial law