Jesse Hagopian: Why the Nation Needs the #TeachTruth Movement
Writing at Word In Black, teacher and activist Jesse Hagopian explains why now is the time for US students to learn the whole truth.
As Nelva Williamson, a high school social studies teacher in Houston put it, “I will continue to teach truth to power because my students deserve to see themselves in history, to know that their ancestors were overcomers, and that they MATTER!”
Ms. Williamson said that because representatives in 42 states, including Texas where she lives, have introduced legislation — or pursued other measures — that requires educators to lie to students about the role of racism, sexism, heterosexism, transphobia, and other forms of oppression throughout U.S. history.
Altogether, more than 17.7 million public school students could have their learning restricted by local action and the recent slate of laws and policies aimed to ban teaching concepts related to race, racism, and gender, and often deemed “critical race theory.”
Already, laws and restrictions to ban discussions of race have been imposed in at least 17 states. At least 15 states are considering homophobic and transphobic bills in the 2021-22 legislative session that would impact what can be taught about sexuality and gender.
Increasingly books by Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and LGBTQ+ writers are being banned, with more than 1,500 book bans enacted in U.S. school districts in the last nine months. Educators in Tennessee, Florida, Texas, Missouri, and beyond have been fired for teaching what Republicans have erroneously labeled critical race theory (CRT).
But you don’t have to have ever taken a graduate-level law course on race, or even know anything about it, to be found guilty of corrupting youth with antiracist ideas — or having exposed them to parts of U.S. history that reflect poorly on the nation.
The wording is slightly different in the various anti-history laws around the country, but the intent is the same. Some of the states — such as Texas and Florida — ban any teaching that would make white students feel “discomfort” about the history of racism.