Educators To Protest Bills Aimed At Teaching Racial History

In at least a dozen states, legislators have passed bills that restrict the focused teaching of historical lessons of racially violent, intense or uncomfortable incidents like the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, the Trail of Tears and other episodes in a pushback against critical race theory in classes.

But educators have countered with pushback of their own.  In 22 cities they are organizing protests against the legislative efforts to make teachers sidestep education about race in America. On Saturday (June 12), led by a group called the Zinn Education Project, a collaboration of two nonprofits:  Teaching for Change and Rethinking Schools. Teachers will hold nationwide events like rallies or even history-oriented teach-ins in what they are calling a Day of Action.

“Our children deserve to be taught authentic, connective histories,” Tamara Anderson, a member of Black Lives Matter at School, told USA Today. “Indigenous, Black, Latino, Asian and other people of color make up the fabric of what is actually America.”

On its website, the Zinn Education Project’s organizers are encouraging participants to select sites in their respective cities that make it so that teachers would be forced to lie about or omit information because of legislation that requires it; organize rallies with other educators and concerned individuals; have everyone speak out on the importance of teaching history fully; and post content about it to social media with the hashtag #TeachTruth.

What the educators say they are fighting against is an essential whitewashing of historical events showing a perpetuation in America of white supremacy and systemic racism.

States like Texas are moving bills through their legislatures that would at least limit the teaching of critical race theory, criticizing it as a way to implement teachers’ personal biases into the classroom, the Texas Tribune reports. In Arkansas and Mississippi, lawmakers are moving bills forward that would ban teaching of The New York Times’ 1619 Project, which outlines how slavery as an institution was established that year in colonial Virginia. The bills say the series misrepresents history, according to EducationWeek.

RELATED: The New York Times’ 1619 Project About Slavery Draws Criticism From People Who Want To Bury Its Legacy

The National Education Association balks at such legislative attempts to thwart teaching of the nation’s racial past. The National Education Association, which is supporting the Zinn project along with BLM at School, says it is considering legal action against legislation that would hinder how history is taught to students.

Becky Pringle, president of the NEA told USA Today that the union would defend any teachers brought up on charges.

Perspectives like that of the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank view the push toward critical race theory counterproductive. “The account of history becomes derogatory,” Charles Lehman, a fellow at the organization, told USA Today. “There’s a difference in saying, ‘We have done evil things,’ from the stronger claim that America is essentially racist.”

But to others like Chris Stewart, CEO of brightbeam, an education nonprofit, that misses the point.

“There’s a long-overdue reckoning happening right now around George Floyd and race in this country that bad-faith actors on the conservative side want to shut down,” Stewart told USA Today. “The reckoning from one side is to shut it down by never talking about it, and to stop your teachers from exploring it, because we don’t want to feel bad about it.”

The Zinn project’s Day of Action has rallies planned for places like African American Civil War Memorial in Washington, D.C.; Northside Pool in Youngstown, Ohio where Blacks were once banned by segregation; and in Richmond, Va., at the Daughters of the Confederacy’s national headquarters.

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