Texas stifles anti-racism education

 
BY: Stu Becker| September 17, 2021
Texas stifles anti-racism education

 

What is the critical race theory law?

This law, which took effect in Texas on September 1, is an attempt by the extreme right wing of the ruling class to intimidate teachers to stop them from teaching about systemic racism and how this country is built on a history of racial and class oppression, such as the enslavement of Africans and the genocide of the indigenous people and the theft of their land, oppression and exploitation of Mexicans and other Latinos, and other non-white people.

Racial oppression exists not only in the United States but also throughout the world, as Western imperialism has become a dominant force throughout the world. This global system continues today with the ongoing hegemony of United States imperialism. As Claudia Jones said, “Imperialism is the root cause of racism. It is the ideology which upholds colonial rule and exploitation. It is the ideology which breeds fascism, rightly condemned by the civilized people of the whole world.”

The critical race theory law is part of an ongoing extreme-right backlash, which in Texas includes new laws that suppress the vote and further restrict the right of women to choose abortion. This backlash is fueled by the election of Biden, the fears over demographic changes in this country, and, of course, the massive 2020 uprising against systemic white racism. Angela Davis said these were the biggest protests and uprisings ever before in U.S. history, and elder activists tell me that these are the biggest uprisings they have seen in their lives. These protests left an indelible mark and forever changed the consciousness of people in the United States. When I attended these protests, I had never seen so much passion and solidarity from so many people, largely young people who were determined to change America. All “races” were involved, including Black, Latino, Native American, white, Asian, Middle Eastern, etc.

This “critical race theory” law is an attempt by the extreme right and neo-Confederate forces to keep us in the past. As Fidel Castro said, “Revolution is a struggle between the future and the past.”

The law also bars teachers from giving students assignments or credit for community activism against racism or injustice. Of course the ruling class and its extreme right elements will go all out to stop the multiracial working class and the masses of people from empowering themselves and making change.

Teachers have a problem with this law because they want to provide the next generations with a true history about oppression and exploitation in the United States and the world. They acknowledge the various forms of racial oppression such as the police killing of George Floyd; racist police terrorism; racist mass incarceration, which disproportionately affects African Americans, Latinos, and low-income people in general; and discrimination against Latinos and immigrants from Latin America. They want to teach about where this all comes from.

Education is often a first step in being moved to make change. When you become educated about problems that you already see in the world, it inspires and emboldens you to go out and do something to try to fix them. This is why I and many other people like me became teachers.

Why are students against this law? African American, Latino/a, Native American, Middle Eastern, Asian, and white students are aware of white racism and often have very sophisticated analyses about it if you ask them. The school where I teach is close to 90% Latino. I have asked my students what they think are the biggest problems in the world. Many will say racism and cite the police killings of Black and brown people as an example. Students are very passionate about the issue of police brutality. Others will say poverty, hunger, global warming, constant war, and the COVID-19 pandemic are some of the biggest problems in the world. Some will even specifically mention capitalism as the biggest problem.

Once I asked students whether they have seen or experienced racism in the world. They said yes, that oftentimes white people will treat Latinos or Hispanics and Black people as inferior. I asked them when they first noticed racism, and one student said they first noticed it when at school as a young child they saw that most of the custodians were Hispanic/Latino or Black while most of the teachers were white. They appreciate education that explains where this phenomenon comes from and how to end it. They want an education that is relevant to them, and nothing is more relevant than learning about the root causes of the biggest problems in the world such as white racism, poverty, global warming, constant war, world hunger, etc.

What should teachers do? Join your union, either an AFT or NEA affiliate, and organize teachers and school workers on your campus around issues that empower teachers, school workers, students, parents, and the community. (It may be necessary to form a racial justice caucus within your union as well.) The struggles teachers and school workers could organize around might include fighting to provide students with a true education about systemic racism, advocating to end constant standardized testing and school privatization, pushing for COVID-19 safety, or many others. These issues should all be linked together. What should students and parents do? Form organizations, join organizations, and build coalitions and alliances with the teachers’ unions, speak out at the school board meetings, and fight back!

Image: Steven E Zimmerman (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

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Author
    Stu Becker is an activist and organizer in Dallas, Texas. He is a high school social studies teacher, and a member and organizer in the local chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.

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