Jesse Hagopian: #TeachTruth: Don’t censor honest accounts of history
In a special guest op-ed for the Seattle Times, teacher Jesse Hagopian argues against two new teacher gag bills designed to suppress the teaching of actual history.
State Republican Rep. Jim Walsh recently introduced HB 1807 and Republican Rep. Brad Klippert introduced HB 1886 for this legislative session — two bills designed to mandate educators lie to Washington’s students about structural racism and sexism.
This copycat legislation is lifted from a growing number of bills around the country that seek to ban an honest account of history in K-12 education, including many of the long struggles against oppression. These bills especially target the teaching of critical race theory (CRT), the 1619 Project, the Zinn Education Project and Black Lives Matter at School.
It’s fitting that Rep. Klippert’s bill is numbered “1886,” as that was the year a mob of white people in Seattle rounded up more than 200 Chinese people, forced them into wagons, and hauled them to Seattle docks where they were placed on ships and deported. Though 15 people were tried in court in relation to the riot — including Chief of Police William Murphy who helped the mob round up Chinese people illegally — not a single one was ever convicted of a crime.
It’s similarly appropriate that Rep. Walsh’s bill is numbered “1807” because this bill seeks to return us to the early 19th century — a time when the nation was accelerating the attack on Black people’s rights in the North and colonizing the land of Native Americans. In 1807, New Jersey took away the right to vote for Black people. On April 1, 1807, Ohio outlawed Black people from testifying in cases with white people. For the next 40 years, white people could act with impunity in filing baseless lawsuits and commit crimes — even violent attacks — against Black people who could not testify to defend themselves or give any evidence against them.