A coalition born out of a Sunday school class opposes bills that target what’s labeled, or mislabeled, the ‘critical race theory’ controversy in public school classrooms across West Virginia.
It’s a controversy that several coalition partners have said is fabricated, arguing that the bills could have a chilling effect on honest discussions about race, gender and US history.
Critical Race Theory, or CRT, is not listed in West Virginia’s K-12 public education learning standards, but local programs may add to those standards, and curators have defined the term so broadly that its meaning is vague. Broadly speaking, critical race theory is a way of analyzing society and history and the role of racism within it.
John Bolt, one of the teachers of the Adult Sunday School class at First Presbyterian Church in Morgantown, said, “The idea that the Sunday School class has is that our faith leads us to do something, that we can’t just talk about it, we have to do something.”
Bolt, a retired West Virginia University spokesperson, said a non-sectarian group called Dismantling Racism Together emerged from the classroom and began meeting in fall 2020.
The reaction of the Conservatives to what some of them call CRT was already smoldering. While state legislative leaders did not push bills on the subject in the 2021 session, Bolt said, “As we moved forward into December 2021, we were confident that this idea would once again show the head”.
Last week he showed his head and shoulders.
After about an hour and a half of questions, mostly from the five Democrats, Republican members of the committee voted to end debate on the bill without further discussion or opportunity for amendments, just as a union leader teachers was about to speak.
Related bills were introduced this year but were not taken up by a legislative committee. These include two principals sponsored by Sen. Mike Azinger, R-Wood, one of whom would create a whistleblower line in the governor’s office for parents and students report CRT in public schools. Private schools would not be included.
Now, what has become the West Virginia Coalition for Truth in History is partnering with the NAACP of West Virginia, the National Organization of Women of West Virginia and other groups to oppose these bills. The groups held an online press conference on Monday.
Reverend Zac Morton, minister of the First Presbyterian Church, said God had commanded history to be remembered and that Christ himself was “a marginalized person under the thumb of an imperial regime that sought to oppress and to manipulate people in order to extract wealth and resources”.
“It seems like the Bible would support, and set out a dramatic case, that it’s not only important, but absolutely vital to study and look at our history honestly, especially the parts we’d rather ignore. “said Morton, who is white. .
There will be a public hearing on HB 4011 from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Wednesday in the House of Delegates chamber.
If the bill passes the full House, it will go to the Senate, where former NAACP Chairman Owens Brown is now a Democratic senator. As they are in the House of Delegates, Democrats are a superminority in the Senate.
“They say a fish rots from the head down,” Brown said. “And there’s a real stench permeating Republican politics in West Virginia and across America.”
Brown said “some Republicans are perpetuating this lie about critical race theory” for political gain and at the expense of children.
“To me, when you lie for political gain and play people against each other and create distrust between people, that’s what I would call evil,” he said. declared. He said the tip line bill came “straight out of the Soviet Union” and that “this culture war they are fighting in is going to lead to a form of violence.”
HB 4011, the “Anti-Stereotyping Law,” does not mention the CRT, but it would require public and charter schools, not private schools, to publish online all material “regarding or used in the training of school personnel on all matters of non-discrimination, diversity, equity, inclusion, race, ethnicity, gender or bias, or any combination of these concepts with other concepts.
The same online posting would be required for all school programs, such as textbooks and worksheets, regarding the same issues.
The publication of this program should further be accompanied by the author of the teaching material, the organization, the links to it if it is publicly available online, how to consult it otherwise and the teacher identity, if the teacher created it.
Audra Slocum, a white WVU associate professor who trains middle and high school English and social studies teachers, said, “I see the intent of these bills as a clear attempt to instill fear among teachers who are committed to teaching accurate and contemporary history. social issues” while presenting themselves as bills of transparency and anti-stereotypes.
The bill also states that public and charter schools and their employees may not, in the course of their employment, “promote, adopt or endorse stereotypes based on race, gender, ethnicity, religion or national origin”. She defines stereotypes as “character traits attributed to a particular race, gender, ethnicity, religion, or national origin, or to an individual because of” these things.
The legislation would still allow “data or scientific studies that categorize people on the basis of” these identifiers, “or that reveal disparities between different groups within any of these categories.”
Another section of the bill states that public and charter schools may not require or compel students or employees to affirm that “an individual, by reason of race, sex, ethnicity, religion or national origin, should be blamed for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, sex, ethnicity, religion or national origin.
Sponsor Chris Pritt’s senior delegate, R-Kanawha, said he couldn’t cite specific local or national examples Thursday of what the bill is trying to address. He said the next day on the curator “Tom Roten’s Morning Show” that it was a question of approaching the critical theory of race.
“There are different definitions, but the crux of a definition is the idea that a person’s identity, worth and outlook are predetermined by the color of their skin,” said Pritt, who is white. He alleged that schools across the country are teaching “that you are inherently an oppressor if you are a member of one group and you are inherently oppressed if you are a member of a different group.” These are not concepts and ideas that we should be teaching in our schools.
CRT’s “different definitions” undermine the meaning of the term, allowing it to be used to label and critique various ideas. Ibram X. Kendi, a Boston University professor often criticized as a proponent of critical race theory, wrote an entire chapter against anti-white racism in “How to Be an Anti-Racist.”
“Whenever someone classifies people of European descent as biologically, culturally or behaviorally inferior, whenever someone says there is something wrong with white people as a group, someone one expresses a racist idea,” wrote Kendi, who is black.
“Of course, ordinary white people benefit from racist policies,” he wrote, “but not as much as racist power and not as much as they could from a fair society, a society where the average white voter could have as much power as super-rich white men to decide elections and shape policy.
Pritt said on Monday that “what this bill is trying to solve is a lot of the division that whether you want to call it CRT or other related concepts, these are the real things that divide us and , if you look at the plain language of our bill, there is nothing that should be controversial.
Morton, the pastor, said he understood the scriptures to require “we must examine the sins of our past, collectively, right? Things like the institution of chattel slavery, the genocide of native people, the exploitation of Asian immigrants who provided labor, destructive religious documents like Manifest Destiny, Jim Crow, the way that was vindicated by believers and the racial violence perpetuated against black Americans during the Great Migration when they settled in northern cities.
He argued that, “once we were independent, it’s true, many well-to-do people in America became the very oppressors they rebelled against”. He said these bills “seek to silence this necessary national conversation…in my opinion, they’re kind of anti-evangelical, they misunderstand the whole story, and that’s the politics and the language of the oppressor who silences the stories of the oppressed.”