University of Tennessee Must Take Stand to Call Out State CRT Bill as Exercise in White SupremacyRoundup
tags: Tennessee, teaching history, critical race theory
David Barber is a professor of history at the University of Tennessee at Martin.
Over the past two years, our Tennessee state legislature has passed and our governor, Bill Lee, has signed two pieces of white supremacist “education” legislation. Last year, Tennessee enacted anti-“Critical Race Theory” (CRT) legislation effectively barring the teaching of Black history in K-12 schools. This year the state has promoted similar “divisive concepts” legislation for higher education. This year’s legislation effectively bars our public universities from requiring that their students take classes in Black history or in any other “diversity” requirement.
The largest and most important organization of historians in the United States, the American Historical Association (AHA), has condemned both last year’s and this year’s legislation. In the statement it issued last year, the AHA, joined by over 150 other academic associations, named the “clear goal” of this anti-CRT legislation: “to suppress teaching and learning about the role of racism in the history of the United States.”
“To suppress teaching and learning about the role of racism” in American history is to defend racism, is to defend America’s system of white supremacy. This is inarguable.
In defending white supremacy our law-makers make ever-more precarious the well-being and the lives of Black people and of all people of color. And although we do not generally acknowledge this, white supremacy also makes the lives of tens and tens of millions of white people ever more insecure, ever more filled with confusion, anger and hatred.
Our UT System Administration did nothing to oppose last year’s K-12 law and it has done nothing this year to oppose the “divisive concepts” legislation. Worse still, in an unsigned handout addressing this year’s legislation, UT’s Government Relations Office (GRO) not only fails to condemn this racist legislation, it attempts to reassure us of the law’s benign nature.
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