Mississippi’s black legislators walked out in protest and withheld their votes as the state Senate passed a bill prohibiting schools from teaching critical race theory on Friday (Jan. 21).
According to CNN, the bill makes no mention of or definition of critical race theory. It also makes no mention of any specific topics that teachers should avoid discussing in class with kids.
After the Black lawmakers walked out, the bill passed by a vote of 32-2 in the Senate. Senate Bill 2113, if signed into law, would make it illegal for Mississippi public schools to force pupils to accept “that any sex, race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin is intrinsically superior or inferior.”
Republican Senator Chris McDaniel said during an hour-long discussion that he couldn’t “see the mischief” in the bill’s language. If the bill had been offered in the 1950s, when the state’s schools were segregated, McDaniel said it would have been “the most dynamic piece of civil rights legislation in this state’s history.”
Senator Michael McLendon, the bill’s sponsor, was also probed by Democrats. His supporters told him they heard about critical race theory on national television and don’t want it taught to their children, according to the white Republican senator.
The state superintendent of education, according to the Associated Press, has stated that critical race theory is not currently being taught in Mississippi schools. The divisive notion, which has dominated Republican campaigns and talking points for months, aims to examine and address inequality and racism in the United States.
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McLendon struggled to define critical race theory ahead of the election, according to the Associated Press, but added, “Systematic racism should not be taught to our children.”
“So it’s a national problem; is it a problem in Mississippi?” state Senate Minority Leader Derrick Simmons wondered. McLendon responded, “Well, we strive to develop laws for the future as well as the present.”
McLendon was told by Democratic state Sen. David Jordan, who stated he had taught as a teacher for 33 years, that the bill was unnecessary.
“It’s a waste of both your time and my time.” “I know there are those who are afraid, but as a good senator, you can assure them that their fears are unfounded,” Jordan added. “It’s unfortunate that we’ve squandered so much time on something that isn’t even required.”
“We can’t keep stumbling backward into the future.” That is exactly what this measure accomplishes. That is why we don’t require it,” he continued.
During the discussion, Democratic Sen. Barbara Blackmon of Canton declared, “This bill is not morally right.”
Before becoming law, Senate Bill 2113 must pass the Mississippi House of Representatives and be signed by Gov. Tate Reeves.