Exploring Resistance to Critical Race Theory: Part 5 — a timeline
This blog series attempts to clarify what is happening with legislation and conversation around Critical Race Theory in the United States, starting generally, and then specifically what happened in Texas. Fox News, as can be seen above, is mentioning Critical Race Theory more and more frequently. At the same time, Republican law makers have been passing laws, which often do not name Critical Race Theory, but which aim to eliminate the teaching of ideas around systemic racism or white privilege from schools. I am attempting to better understand exactly what is happening, how Republican law makers are writing laws and trying to legislate on this topic, and to think about why. This post does just the first two of these pieces, and you can also see Part 1, 2, and 3, for more on what is happening and what the conversation around what is happening is.
Note: Critical Race Theory (CRT) argues that societal structures and institutions imbed power structures around race, and these power structures are more powerful than individual actions. Schools are key societal institutions, and what they teach, how they teach it, what resources they have to support teaching and learning, and how they receive funding are often part of studies using CRT.
Above, is a timeline of events. First, early in September, 2020, Christopher Rufo appears on Tucker Carlson and mentions a training for federal employees, which he said used tenets of Critical Race Theory. This moment is acknowledged by Media Matters and others as the start of the conversation about CRT. On September 22, 2020, President Trump signs Executive Order 13950. I discussed what is in this order in Part 2 of this series.
On January 20, 2021, President Biden rescinds Executive Order 13950 in a statement that notes the existence of systemic racism. To quote: “Equal opportunity is the bedrock of American democracy, and our diversity is one of our country’s greatest strengths. But for too many, the American Dream remains out of reach. Entrenched disparities in our laws and public policies, and in our public and private institutions, have often denied that equal opportunity to individuals and communities.”
In February, Delegates Keaton, Holstein, Barnharts, and Wamsley of West Virginia introduces House Bill 2595 using the language from the executive order to prohibit “divisive acts” in the workplace and the teaching of “divisive acts” in West Virginia schools. This bill has not moved forward in the legislative process from that time. I include mention of this here, just to note that states were still using the language of the rescinded executive order. I believe 20 other states are also writing and trying to pass this type of legislation, but I did not find a complete list.
In March, Texas Representative Toth introduces House Bill 3979 with the same list of “divisive acts” to the Texas legislature. The bill is brought to the floor on May 10th and 11th. A number of YouTube videos of that debate can be seen here: Texas Impact.
Texas Impact’s videos were all I could find of the legislature’s debate of this bill, and they are all from representatives and senators who opposed the bill. My understanding of the debate, therefore, is one-sided. The following are a few of the moments I was able to witness through these videos:
- Representative Toth did not present the bill to the Public Education Committee, as he was supposed to, so members of that committee, and specifically Representative Talarico, had many questions.
- The bill prohibits the teaching of current events unless the teacher presents both sides of the issue, but the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills or TEKS, the standards by which all Texas curricula are developed mandate the teaching of current events.
- Representative Toth wants parents to teach these ideas to kids not teachers. Which ideas teachers or parents teach is a long-standing conflict in our school systems.
- Representative Talarico and Representative Gonzalez both debate with Representative Toth about the bill. Talarico as a former teacher and Gonzalez as an expert with a doctorate that used Critical Race Theory.
- Representative Bernal gave an impassioned speech against the bill in which he stated that many representatives have said to him privately that they do not want to vote for the bill but they have to or they will get “primaried”.
- On May 11th, the second day of debate, Representative Davis asks Representative Toth to explain where the bill is now given all of the amendments. He does not do so, but does say he is happy with how it is written. Representative Davis presses him to say whether he will defend the amendments before the senate. Representative Toth either dodges the question or doesn’t understand it.
- During the conversation with Representative Davis, Representative Toth mentions he is happy to include the writings of Susan B. Anthony and Cady Stanton because “These are two women suffragettes that are Christians, are pro-life”.
- Representative Toth mentions that he brought the bill because he saw a TikTok video of a teacher who disparaged kids in her classroom for not adopting and not believing in Critical Race Theory. I am still looking for this video.
The bill passed out of the house with amendments as I noted in this blog series Part 3. On May 23rd or 24th, it was debated on the Senate floor. Senator West states during that debate that the bill was using language from the Executive Order 13950, and Representative Toth states that he did not know this.
On June 15th, the bill was signed into law by Governor Abbott with all of the amendments in place (you can see the details in Part 3 of this blog series). Governor Abbott also indicated that he would have a special session of the legislature to address the problems with the amendments to the law.
While HB 3979 was making its way through the Texas legislature to the Governor’s desk, another law, HB 1504, was also introduced. HB 1504 was introduced February 1, 2021. It allows two elective courses, Mexican American History and African American History, to be part of the social science requirements for graduation in high schools. This bill is on the “intent calendar” as of May 26, 2021. The bill builds on a project that first introduced these two courses as electives to school boards. The courses are currently taught in 21 school districts in Texas. I learned about this bill in this video from the Education Committee of the Texas Senate.
This blog post was difficult to write. I was expecting better access to information about what happened on May 10th and 11th in the House sessions. I feel like I am missing key components of the arguments for and against the bill. I do hope it gives some sense of what happened. Next I am going to attempt to think about why all of this is happening.