Slimantics: Senate takes up CRT (Can’t Resist Temptation) bill – The Dispatch – The Commercial Dispatch

Slim Smith

In every session of the legislature, there are bills introduced and sometimes passed into law that exist primarily as an exercise in political grandstanding. They add nothing, subtract nothing, change nothing,

Now in the second week of the 2022 session, the Mississippi Senate has provided a good example.

Senate Bill 2113, described: “Critical Race Theory: Prohibit” was introduced and assigned to the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday. It’s an earnest effort to solve a problem that doesn’t exist about a topic that conservative culture warriors embrace with the zeal you would associate with a cure for cancer or, perhaps, another alternative to vaccines in case urine doesn’t work out. Dog vomit holds some promise, I’m hearing.

Chuck Younger (R, Columbus) is one of 20 authors of the bill. Obviously, Senate Republicans were climbing all over each other trying to get a piece of the action, knowing how well it resonates with their conservative base.

Sometimes, these sorts of bills can produce real harm. Fortunately, in this case, all it means is that Senate Republicans puff out their chests without rendering any real damage.

You can read the bill by going to the Legislature’s bill search link here. Granted, bills are always adorned with legalese that sometimes makes it difficult to understand. But there is always one word that lets you know when a bill is doing nothing but pumping hot air into the environment. That word is “affirm” which means “we’re sticking with whatever is already in place.” After all, you cannot affirm something that does not exist. This bill uses the word “affirms” not once, but twice.

This bill affects no policy.

It’s pointless to wade into the debate over CRT other than to say describing CRT as teaching that white people are bad, as conservatives have been proclaiming from the mountain top for the last few months, is like describing the Wizard of Oz as “two women fighting over shoes.”

There is an important distinction between saying white people are bad (the conservative view of CRT) and saying white people have done bad things and those bad things continue to exist in our institutions (the actual premise of CRT supported by fact).

The real danger is that conservatives now will be emboldened to sanitize our history in a knee-jerk reaction to criticism that our schools are inclined toward devoting more time to the ugly history of racism, a movement most recently identified with the New York Times’ 1619 project.

Pendulums, by their nature, swing from one pole to the other, which is what makes this otherwise harmless anti-CRT rhetoric dangerous.

My fear is that this innocuous bill will promote a false narrative of our history. If that view does infiltrate our schools, our children won’t be learning American history; they’ll be learning American mythology.

You can make an argument that the ugly parts of our history are more important to the education of our children than the glorious parts. The lessons we learn from mistakes are almost always far more impactful than the triumphs. This is particularly true on the unpleasant, but necessary, topic of racism in our country.

In Mississippi, especially, our children should be taught about slavery, Jim Crow, lynching and systemic and institutional racism, not to evoke shame but to serve as a warning.

When our young people are taught that history, they are more able to hear the echoes of history in terms such as “state’s rights” or “school choice” or “federal takeover” and other language deeply ingrained in Jim Crow ideology.

When people today use the rhetoric of the previous generations of racists and segregationists, it’s a warning – but only if we recognize it.

On Monday, we observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day and as sure as the sun rises in the east, there will be white conservatives who wrap themselves in the only King quote they can recite: “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Those who do not have a true grasp of the history of King and the Civil Rights Movement do not understand that King was referring to his own people in that statement. King lived and died in a time when American society did not judge a white person by the color of his skin. He looked to a day when Black Americans were afforded the same dignity.

When misguided bills such as SB-2113 are passed into law with great enthusiasm, it is right to assume we have not yet reached that day and aren’t likely to get there anytime soon.

Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]

Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]

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