It is alarming that teachers are so fiercely defending the use of CRT in schools, and even encouraged students to object to my bill as part of school assignments.
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Last week the Rhode Island House Education Committee held a hearing on H-6070, the bill I introduced as a Representative to ban the use of Critical Race Theory in our schools. Testimony was submitted by 577 Rhode Islanders. Half supported banning CRT, half opposed. The most fierce and vitriolic opposition came from teachers themselves, reflecting how deeply CRT already has penetrated education.
Here is the speech I gave introducing the the bill (you can see the transcript here):
(full hearing video here – this bill discussion starts at 1:30:00)
While I modeled my bill on legislation proposed in other states, I certainly would have considered amendments to the bill to help clarify the wording and scope. But no such amendments were offered.
There has been a fair amount of media coverage about my efforts and the controversy. One thing that hasn’t received much coverage, but which is important, is to understand just who is behind the CRT effort in schools. I now have had a lot of time to go through the public comments, and it is clear that CRT already is being pushed and defended by activist teachers.
Review of all the comments supporting CRT gave a unique insight into the thinking and methods of this repugnant philosophy. More than 66% came from teachers and their students. They provide a troubling revelation into what is being taught in our schools as it relates to this destructive ideology. It is alarming that teachers are so fiercely defending the use of CRT in schools, and even encouraged students to object to my bill as part of school assignments.
It came out during the live hearing that some of the students who called in to object had done so as part of school assignments. Clearly, teachers supporting CRT had an undue influence on these students.
I have reproduced some key comments below so you can read for yourself how deeply CRT already has penetrated our schools.
These comments reflect the philosophy of those who support and use CRT. Although some may couch their viewpoint in the questionable rhetoric of helping children to think critically, those opposed to this bill are all defending the right to use this destructive ideology in classrooms. That ideology is on full display in their testimony.
Notice that these commenters repeatedly use a strawman to attack my bill, saying it seeks to ban the study of history. Their arguments revolve around the mistaken notion that the bill suppresses a fair and even-handed representation of our history. They insist that teachers present an ideologically charged and slanted version of our past filtered through a warped and biased perspective. Under CRT, teachers are required to amplify racial and gender grievance and exclude inconvenient facts and context.
The letters are filled with racial jargon: unconscious bias, anti-racism, white privilege and guilt, white supremacy and fragility, systematic and institutionalized systems of racism and sexism, micro-aggressions, heteronormativity, patriarchy, and the “whitewashed, falsehoods and slanted history of White Europeans” and “death by whites”. The charges of present-day racism are fierce and certain. It is an ‘undeniable fact’. They demand that children as young as the 4th grade must learn about their sordid role in “benefiting from and perpetuating the systemic oppression”. After hours of reading the testimony, the syllabus for the teacher preparation courses of these teachers was clear. It is also certain that no young child could ‘engage in a full and meaningful debate’ on these topics.
Students everywhere quickly learn that the best way to receive teacher approval and that coveted ‘A’ is to parrot what the teacher says. It certainly isn’t to disagree and introduce facts and data that go against their pronouncements. Somewhere in that mix, schools slide into indoctrination and not teaching. The core practices of critical race theory include bullying, shaming and forced apologies. By forcing CRT on children, we are creating robotic children, who have no thoughts and ideas of their own. And even if they do, children will suppress them for fear of societal policing by their teachers.
To me the most harmful consequence of this poisonous ideology is that it removes responsibility from everyone who could make a difference. The politicians who have mismanaged the inner cities for decades are off the hook, as are the educational leaders who crank out graduates ill-equipped to enter the adult world of work year after year. Parents and students are absolved, as well. When the only reason that can be contemplated is one’s skin color, why look for a reason that will require change and effort?
While I was introducing my bill, I talked about the elimination of meritocracy under CRT. I was saddened to see an Hispanic legislator shake their head to indicate that hard work, sustained effort, perseverance and good decisions don’t lead to successful lives. Critical Race Theory is a depressing ideology for the very people it purports to help.
We don’t fight racism with more racism. Race-shaming is wrong against any person, but particularly against children. This divisive and harmful ideology takes us backwards to racial division and it must be kept away from school children.
Here are some excerpts from that public testimony and comments (Spelling and grammar errors are theirs, underlining is mine):
From a graduate assistant at Providence College: “white Christian groups are aging, and they should get off Facebook”
According to a study done by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), America’s youngest religious groups are all non-Christian. Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists are all far younger than white Christian groups. At least one-third of Muslims (42%), Hindus (36%), and Buddhists (35%) are under the age of 30. Roughly one-third (34%) of religiously unaffiliated Americans are also under 30. In contrast, white Christian groups are aging, and they should get off Facebook and keep their uninformed, racist comments to themselves.Daily life is synonymous with the processes of race, gender, and class exclusions, and students are constantly bombarded with news of hate crimes and injustice. Public school classrooms are no exception to this, and many students are often alienated and experience prejudice from their teachers, other classmates, and community members. In a classroom, cultural illiteracy can manifest in numerous ways: Whitewashing history, gaslighting students’ lived experiences, microaggressions, cultural insensitivity, contributing to the school to prison pipeline, using outdated and offensive language, and supporting systems that oppress BIPOC and marginalized students. These are only divisive topics for people that are already racist. For everyone else, we understand that these topics are based on historical facts and continue to harm religious and ethnic minorities on a daily basis.
For too long, kindness, high test scores, and perfectly curated classrooms have been celebrated and noted as the beacon of what it means to be a good teacher. Classrooms often whitewash history and ignore sensitive topics because they think they’re inappropriate for children. It is time that we start amplifying the voices of educators who strive to decolonize the curriculum and uphold anti-racist classrooms. Teachers can better uphold a safe and inclusive environment for their students if they are trained in the nuances of race, culture, and religion, and children will grow up to be informed advocates and tolerant civic leaders. Please do the right thing and squash this bill.
From a Social Studies teacher at East Providence High School: “almost half of my curriculum deals with the topics of race and sex/gender”
Our students should leave schools with a clear sense of their rights and responsibilities as citizens.” As a Sociology teacher, almost half of my curriculum deals with the topics of race and sex/gender, and I have always had students participate in and discuss topics with nuance, respect, and insight – rather than guilt or anguish.
A RI-based educator: Accuses me of “actively prioritiz[ing] the privileged few”
I am a RI-based educator. This bill is an extraordinarily damaging and harmful document that is both anti-education and anti-equity. The architects of this bill have been trained in the ways of systems that actively prioritize the privileged few and therefore it is unsurprising that they would seek to perpetuate those systems by focusing on denying children opportunities to learn how prejudice is deeply rooted in society. The need to create learning environments for children that allow them to engage with difficult histories and complex topics (including but not limited to racism, sexism and gender identity) is urgent and it is a crucial step in making society more equitable.
Providence School Teacher: “institutional practices that still oppress people of color”
I am writing to express that I am against the passage of Bill #6070. I feel it is important to make clear to our students that we must strive to be an anti-racist society, and to do that we must ackowledge and reckon with our racist past as a nation and the institutional practices that still oppress people of color in our present day. This bill is poorly constructed and not well thought out. We must bravely confront racism in our past and present, and equip our young people to have informed, thoughtful conservations as we all strive to build a more just society. Thank You.
Brown University Graduate at a Providence charter school: “This bill is both racist and sexist and aims at propping up ideals of White supremacy”
As a high school teacher, this bill would be perpetuating the lies and harm that this country was built on. Students deserve to know how the history of their state and country affects their current life. How Providence neighborhoods are a clear example of redlining. How health care still isn’t a human right and is tied to work and often marriage. How civics education is being fought for. This bill is both racist and sexist and aims at propping up ideals of White supremacy by letting history go unexamined. Please do not pass H6070.
From a professor at Rhode Island School of Design: “I use critical race theory in all of my courses”
I am a white college professor in Rhode Island. As a student I have benefited tremendously from courses on race, U.S. history, colonial history, and contemporary manifestations of white supremacy. These courses have made me a better human being, a human being no longer blinded by denial to protect a white fragility in the face of truth. What is the intent of this bill? Who does it aim to protect? Who is threatened by accurate accounts of U.S. and global history? Why? We all know the answers to these questions. White supremacy doesn’t need to be named, like shame, that silence sustains it. Performances of ignorance and innocence are necessary to sustain white supremacy.
I could not oppose this bill more strongly. It is demeaning to the state of Rhode Island and its inhabitants that this bill is even being heard and introduced. I teach courses on social movements and backlash against social movements. I teach courses on environmental inequality. I use critical race theory in all of my courses. It is necessary to provide accurate analyses of historical and contemporary data.
From a Providence High school teacher (Two teachers sent exactly the same email. Notice that they left out the 2 white women who were killed in Atlanta)
I’m a high school educator in Rhode Island and my students absolutely need a curriculum that talks about the TRUTH behind our country’s history. Racism is real. Sexism is real. Talking about REAL issues is not divisive – ignoring these realities is what divides us. Our young people deserve to learn about their own history and see themselves reflected in the curriculum. Yes this history is painful, but if we ignore this history, then we ignore ourselves. It is insulting and ironic that a bill like this is being heard in the same week that Derek Chauvin is on trial for the murder of George Floyd last summer. It is insidious and harmful that a bill like this was introduced in the same month that our country saw a tragedy unfold in Atlanta where 6 Asian women were murdered in broad daylight. Our country is mourning the deaths of Black men and Asian women – how dare you introduce a bill that would erase their stories from our curriculum? DO BETTER.
From a Providence High School: “confront the sins of America’s past”
As a teacher of high school US History, this bill is an insult. You would require your state’s teachers to willfully ignore the truth of our country’s past?
The language of this bill pointedly does not mention WHICH races or sexes it seeks to protect from “discomfort, guilt, distress, or anguish” but the subtext is clear. The bill is seeking to protect white students from having to confront the sins of America’s past. How can we possibly move forward as a society if we continue to willfully ignore America’s incredibly entrenched history of racism and sexism? How can you possibly pretend that Rhode Island has no history of racism when the most prolific slave traders in America were Rhode Islanders? Students should be exposed to stories of oppression, stories of innovation, stories of resistance, and stories of heroism. There should not be any moment of historical import that we are not ALLOWED to teach. As a history teacher, it is my responsibility to show students the events of the past, and empower them to evaluate those events. They should be given critical thinking skills to judge the past and come to their own conclusions. If I intentionally shield them from the facts of the past, then they will be unable to think critically and make informed conclusions.
From a Providence non-profit coordinator which receives taxpayer funding: “The United States is a patriarchal, heteronormative, and white supremacist nation”
I am a white, cis woman, and I am appalled by and could not be more opposed to House Bill No. 6070. This bill amounts to censorship of the well-researched histories of white supremacy and systemic racism in the U.S. I do not support teaching that “One race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex”; but this is not what teaching about institutionalized systems of racism and sexism is. Indeed, teaching these concepts highlights historical examples when one race or sex has been lauded by elected government officials as superior to another.
Most egregious in this text is lines 8-9: “(2) The state of Rhode Island or the United States of America is fundamentally racist or sexist”. The United States is a patriarchal, heteronormative, and white supremacist nation whose economy was built through the blood and sweat of enslaved African people. You cannot teach about the history of this country, or any subject for that matter, without reconning with the transformative roles that race and systematic, institutionalized racism have played in the lives and livelihoods of people in this country.
From a Pawtucket high school teacher: The bill seeks “to spare the feelings of others, mainly white people”
I am a high school teacher in Rhode Island. I believe that this bill, if passed, would be a great disservice to our students of color. It is allowing educators to attempt to erase the realities our students face every day. We are asking our students of color to sit back and be uncomfortable with the racism and sexism they face every day solely to spare the feelings of others, mainly white people. It is our educational duty to ensure that our students are prepared for the world and are able to express their own opinions and beliefs. This bill would prohibit that. We would be reinforcing the ideology that racism and sexism does not exist, which, let me enlighten you, it does. This bill is an insult to educators everywhere and I cannot stand idly by. For the sake of Rhode Island, do not pass this bill.
From a Rhode Island public educator: “disgusting white supremicst proposition that puts white male fragility, OVER dismantling systems of injustice”
Issues of racism, sexism, and classicism are embedded in the history of our American fabric. Hundreds of years of Slavery, Jim Crow, and other restricted gender rights laws existed in our country that gave groups of individuals( white males) rights, privileges and advantages over others. Today we still deal with institutionalized racism and sexism. How can we ever hope to DISMANTLE these systems that exist and create a more fair and just world for ALL, if schools are unable to teach hard factual history of our country and the current events that are direct results of it? How can we fix it if we pretend it’s not there?!
This bill is a disgusting white supremicst proposition that puts white male fragility, OVER dismantling systems of injustice FOR ALL.
No current student is responsible for the sins of our forefathers and should never be made to feel that way. Schools and teacher should be given QUALITY racial, gender, and unconscious bias training. No relationship gets fixed by NOT talking about it. Let’s get it together Rhode Island.
From a 7th grade Providence teacher: “My students experience the repercussions of racism and sexism on a daily basis”
My students experience the repercussions of racism and sexism on a daily basis. The tangible effects of systemic, historic racism and violent sexism in this country are more destructive and traumatic than “discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress” felt by individuals “on account of their race or sex.”
The Rhode Island State Government should not be in the business of censorship, which is what this bill proposes. Censoring discussion of racism and sexism does nothing to stop these destructive beliefs and actions, and in fact is the best way to perpetuate them.
From a South Kingstown teacher: “set us on a path of regression in education and display Rhode Island as a bigoted and racist state”
I am writing in opposition of the bill H6070 which will prevent school systems from teaching about racism and oppressive systems. RIDE along with Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green have been advocating for equity and have created the LEAP task force to address flaws in our educational system and have sought to revamp curriculums to include the history of all people of color, cultures and backgrounds. This bill would restrict educators ability to teach the truths of history and continue to perpetuate the falsehoods and slanted history of white Europeans. If this bill passes it would set us on a path of regression in education and display Rhode Island as a bigoted and racist state, unwilling to learn from history or acknowledge that our past is filled with accomplishments and also tragedies that we must be willing to learn from.
A Providence Public School teacher: “my upbringing in the United States has taught me racist and sexist beliefs that I need to work on unlearning every day”
As an white educator in Providence Public Schools, I know that my upbringing in the United States has taught me racist and sexist beliefs that I need to work on unlearning every day. Without the help of learning so-called “divisive concepts”, I would be unaware of the violence I cause through micro aggressions every day. While I do not intend to say or do racist things, I know that I unintentionally cause harm to others because of my ignorance of the effects of my actions and the racial stereotypes I can uphold. Thankfully, I have the ability to learn, to act better every day, and to take responsibility when I make mistakes. These are skills I hope to instill in the youth I work with.
To advocate that our white students and children remain unaware of the history of racism and sexism upheld in the United States is actively choosing violence against our friends and neighbors of color. It gaslights our students of color and erases the real discricimination and violence they face currently. Violence doesn’t just occur when Derek Chauvin can murder an unarmed Black man, George Floyd, in broad daylight or when members of our Asian American and Pacific Islander community are gunned down by a white man and face increasing acts of harassment. White folks commit acts of discrimination and violence every day and to not address this in our education of our children is to choose to continue that violence without care for others or ourselves.
A Providence middle school student: “Patriarchy and differences in pay still exist today. Stereotypes of women and people of color still exist today”
To pass the bill would be a violation of our fundamental rights and the freedom of speech. Students and teachers should have the right to speak up for what they believe in and stand up against racism, sexism, and discrimination that occurs at schools. We’re thankful to live in a country where we have these freedoms, as not everyone has that privilege. To take away these rights would be to take away what makes the United States special, our inherent freedoms. I understand that some students and parents may feel uncomfortable during these discussions, they are perfectly able to express that or seek out other educational institutes and alternate methods of learning.
The idea that no Institution should have the power to say that “the state of Rhode Island or the United States of America is a fundamentally racist or sexist” is taking away our ability to speak the truth. From the writing of our constitution, prejudice has been interwoven in our culture. Unequal opportunities in healthcare, education, jobs, wealth, and housing still exist today. Unconscious bias still exists today. Patriarchy and differences in pay still exist today. Stereotypes of women and people of color still exist today. The only way to right these wrongs is to continue to question the way society operates, and educate and inspire people to overcome our differences and unite. It would be inhumane to take away our ability to teach this universal truth.
A Warwick English teacher: “anti-racist education is fundamental for this nation”
I teach high school English in Warwick and have lived my entire life in Rhode Island, and anti-racist education is fundamental for this nation to learn the truth about our real history in order to reconcile with and move towards acceptance for all. As a woman, teaching my students to critically analyze literature through the feminist or POC perspective is not only necessary, it is crucial to help them become compassionate human beings.
A Providence teacher: “lean into the discomfort of your privilege”
Education is the heart of democracy, and while our state and national history may cause some of us discomfort, that discomfort is essential to bettering ourselves. It is undeniable that Rhode Island (which until very recently of course was Rhode Island and Providence Plantations; and which is founded on Wampanoag, Narragansett, Manissean, Pequot and Mohegan land) is fundamentally a racist institution; the backbone of our economy for more than a century was based on slave trading, and that wealth endures institutionally today. Acknowledging these pasts, particularly for those of us who have benefitted from them, is essential to moving forward inclusively and equitably for all Rhode Islanders. In my own experience teaching Rhode Islanders about these “divisive concepts,” I have become a better citizen and seen my students grow in this way as well and contrary to their moniker, we have not become divided but rather more unified. Better educated voters make for a more productive government and a state we all want to live in. Please vote against H6070 and lean into the discomfort of your privilege.
From a Rhode Island College educator: “The sponsors of this bill want everyone to be treated equally but what we need is equitable treatment”
This bill is a dangerous piece of propaganda that undermines the structural racism issues in our country and mirrors many of the dangerous ideals put forth in President Trump’s 1776 commission . The sponsors of this bill would lead you to believe that this is a bill attempting to heal the racial issues in our country and make everyone equal. Representative Morgan believes that teaching structural racism is making people “denounce their whiteness” this is a façade teaching structural and institutional racism is not intended to make you feel bad for being white. It is expressing that the historical systems put in place by white oppressors disproportionately discriminates against people based on their skin color. It also recognized white privilege, white privilege is not some made up concept and goes to prove as to why this bill should not pass. Recognizing white privilege is not forcing you to renounce being white it is encouraging you to recognize that you have been afforded certain privileges since your birth because you are white. The sponsors of this bill want everyone to be treated equally but what we need is equitable treatment. Denying structural racism does not make it go away, it is not some radical doctrine as many conservative politicians would lead you to believe it is simply fact, which is evident in the disproportionate violent treatment people of color suffer at the hands of law enforcement in this country. Changing the system to make it equitable to everyone begins in our schools. There is no fixing a broken system until you admit that it is broken. Allowing a bill like this to pass undermines the history of intergenerational trauma people of color have experienced. I ask you to please not support this bill and instead encourage conversations of structural violence and racism and help to bring us to a more equitable future.
From a coach at a Providence public high school: “White supremacy and white fragility will not win. We will keep fighting”
It is deplorable that this bill is being proposed and sponsored. This country and white people need to admit the truths that have caused so much harm and continue to cause harm to marginalized people. White supremacy and white fragility will not win. We will keep fighting. I am against this bill, H6070.
From an East Greenwich teacher: “We must all reflect upon the privileges our racial construct and gender have provided us”
While I agree that children should not be taught that one race or gender is superior to another, data has shown that women, LGBTQIA+, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color have been oppressed by systemic policies and practices. We must all reflect upon the privileges our racial construct and gender have provided us so that we can acknowledge the inequities in our communities and the world.
A Social Equity and Inclusion Specialist at Rhode Island School of Design: “The reason White legislators are even proposing this bill is to forefront white comfort and expose white fragility”
To prohitit the teaching of racism and sexism in schools is wrong. One cannot control prohibiting individuals from feeling guilt, discomfort, anguish or distress. We know from history that enslaved people and displaced indigenous people have felt, and are still experiencing much more than discomfort, anguish or distress. ALL RHODE ISLAND STUDENTS NEED TO BE TAUGHT TRUE AND ACCURATE histories of ALL PEOPLE. Especially the history of those who’ve been marginalized and disenfranchised due to racism and sexism. The reason White legislators are even proposing this bill is to forefront white comfort and expose white fragility. if you all were more comfortable being uncomfortable you’d want the same for the children of this state. The more our children know about the past, more empathy will build and they will become the leaders to build more equitable futures. Fruthermore, this type of ban did not work on the federal level, so don’t try it here in Rhode Island. The racial reckoning and Me Too movements prove it’s time to stop sweeping things under the rug or whitewashing history so we don’t repeat the same atrocities.
From a Providence College educator: “decolonize the curriculum and uphold anti-racist classrooms”
Cultural illiteracy can infest a classroom in many ways: Whitewashing history, gaslighting students’ lived experiences, microaggressions, cultural insensitivity, contributing to the school to prison pipeline, using outdated and offensive language, and supporting systems that oppress BIPOC and marginalized students. These are only divisive topics for people that are already racist and bigoted. For everyone else, we understand that these topics are based on historical facts and continue to harm religious and ethnic minorities on a daily basis.
The United States of America is celebrated for its diversity, its “melting pot” and our classrooms reflect this. Many classrooms are filled with students from all walks of life Part of being culturally literate is seeing those intersections of all the countless ways religion, race, and culture are embedded in ways that people express themselves. In our ever more connected world, cultural literacy and competence is an essential bridge to tolerance and global understanding. Incorporating topics and conversations about race, LGBTQ+, religion, culture, society, and other diverse and varying matters is of the utmost import to raising well informed, culturally competent students. The world is not solely made up of the white, heteronormative, and Christian. Children deserve to learn the facts about the real history of this country, including slavery, Jim Crow laws, redlining, Japanese internment camps, Holocaust, Trail of Tears, and Native American schoolhouses, so they can see the truth of oppression in our history and work to move towards a more equitable world.
It is time that we start uplifting the voices of educators who strive to decolonize the curriculum and uphold anti-racist classrooms. Teachers can better uphold a safe, equitable, and inclusive environment for their students if they are trained in the nuances of race, culture, and religion, and children will grow up to be informed advocates and tolerant civic leaders. As an educator, this is a topic very near and dear to my heart. Our students and our community deserves truth and open dialogue – not whitewashed, oppressive stories. Please do the right thing and squash this bill.
From a citizen deeply involved with Providence non-profits: “This means confronting the role of capitalism in our society”
These long held views are still present today and shapre our society. (BIPOC still going to inferior schools, Asian women trafficked here for prostitution, healthcare denied to BIPOC, etc.) If we want to bring this nation together, we have to understand our history and what has led to our division. This means confronting white privilege. This means confronting the patriarchy. This means confronting the role of capitalism in our society; the death of black people by law enforcement; the number of BIPOC in our prison system.
(Good news from) a College student: CRT “trains me and others like me to hate and blame ourselves for things that are entirely out of our control.”
I am a junior (soon to be senior) in college, majoring in criminal justice. In my college career, I have come into contact with classes pushing Critical Race Theory on students, and I can attest to the fact that it is very damaging to the well being of myself, and many friends of mine. It trains me and others like me to hate and blame ourselves for things that are entirely out of our control. The main concept brought forth by supporters of this idea seems to be that the only way to pay for crimes of the past is to punish others in the present, in the name of justice. However, this idea is very misguided.
There are many legal and moral reasons why this should be illegal. The rule of law states, “a person cannot be guilty of a crime unless he has committed a specific offence against a law that provides a penalty.” This is the first lesson taught to me in my criminal law class, and this clearly shows how dangerous this theory being taught is. CRT teaches us to ignore this definition of a crime, and pass blame and judgment on to those who are not guilty of any crime. Currently, we have laws against this, but if our new generation of policy makers are being taught to think this way, then they will move to alter or change the rule of law.
Another reason this bill should be supported is that the classes taught push racist concepts of certain people being worse than others based on skin color. If our education system taught classes that were racist towards minorities, then there would be plenty of legal doctrine to claim that it is unconstitutional. Thus, those same laws apply to this scenario as well. The training of CRT should be made illegal on the same grounds.
The fact that people are even trying to push this is incredibly worrying to me, and I fully support this bill to ban the teaching of CRT. I have had experience with it, and I want you to understand just how wrong it truly is. Not only is it damaging to the mental health and wellbeing of many students like myself, it is also incredibly racist (ironic, because racism is what it falsely claims to be fighting) and most importantly, what they are teaching is already illegal based on the rule of law.
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