Tennessee Lawmakers address controversy surrounding Critical Race Theory

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Conversations about race and its history in our country can be uncomfortable, but when debating how it’s taught in schools, Tennessee lawmakers have differing opinions on how it should be done.

Recently Critical Race Theory has been banned in five states. Tennessee passed House Bill 580 last month. It prohibits any public school from including or promoting several concepts surrounding race and sex. A few prohibited points included in the bill are the following:

  • One race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex;
  • An individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, is inherently privileged, racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or subconsciously;
  • A meritocracy is inherently racist or sexist or designed by a particular race or sex to oppress members of another race or sex.

Republican State representative Jeremy Faison is in support of the bill.

“We don’t want history to be taught from a slanted viewpoint,” said Faison. One of the concerns he brought up with critical race theory was that it included teachings about the concept of “white privilege.”

“I have a biracial son and I want to make sure that he knows that there’s nothing that holds him back in America because of the color of their skin. I also have children who are white and I don’t want them to think because of what happened years ago in America that they’re responsible for that,” Faison said.

Maryville College History professor Aaron Astor says CRT is not the problem, but the ways some people try to teach it can be problematic.

“Critical Race Theory is an academic concept is based around the idea that racism is a social construct but it’s more than just simply individual bias or prejudice. It’s embedded in legal systems and policies,” Astor said.

Astor went on to say that the current history teaching standards in Tennessee public schools are pretty good. “They’re not trying to say every white person is racist. It’s about understanding the deep history of these things.”

Some democratic lawmakers say those opposing CRT are misunderstanding what it actually teaches.

“There is a still dominant narrative of the history of the U.S. as a land of opportunity for everyone and we have to be truthful about where we really are,” said Democratic State Representative Gloria Johnson.

“The outcome is not to shame or have someone feel guilty or feel shame for our past and for our history. That’s not even productive. But what we want to do is for people to understand it so that going forward we will be aware of it. We can make sure that we don’t pass laws or educate or do housing that leaves groups of people black people or brown people behind.”

CRT isn’t taught here in Tennessee, but the fear is that this new bill could have some unintended consequences.

“My worry is that people would interpret this law in such a way that it would prevent them from approaching these very important although certainly difficult concepts having to do with race in American history or Tennessee history. But I hope that educators across the state in k-12 level and college level don’t take this as a reason to shy away from these controversial questions,” Astor said

The bill goes into effect starting July 1.

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