Mississippi Enacts Law on 'Critical Race Theory'

Legislation will limit how race can be discussed in schools
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 4, 2022 4:06 AM CST
Updated Mar 14, 2022 6:30 PM CDT
Mississippi Passes Bill on 'Critical Race Theory'
Rep. Joey Hood answers a question from Rep. John Faulkner about legislation he presented in the House Chamber at the Mississippi Capitol in Jackson, Thursday, March 3, 2022.   (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

(Newser) Updated: Blaming the "radical left" and the news media for spreading misinformation about "critical race theory," Gov. Tate Reeves signed legislation Monday limiting the teaching of racial issues in schools. "Across the country, we're seeing a full-court press by a vocal minority of well-organized and well-funded activists who seek to tear down the unity that has helped make our country great," Reeves said, per the Oxford Eagle. The measure takes effect immediately, per the AP. Democratic Rep. Zakiya Summers was critical. "Censoring teachers, dismantling education bit by bit, attempting to erase the past, refusing to acknowledge the hurt and the horror and the heinous acts that have been done to my people and then hiding behind this 'inferior versus superior' argument—that’s what this bill will do," she said. Our original story from March 4 follows:

The same Mississippi Legislature that proclaimed racial reconciliation after removing the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag nearly two years ago passed a bill Thursday to limit how race can be discussed in classrooms. Several Black legislators said during the six-hour debate that the bill could squelch honest discussion about the harmful effects of racism because parents could complain if history lessons make white children uncomfortable. The Republican-controlled House voted 75-43 to pass Senate Bill 2113. It will go to Republican Gov. Tate Reeves, who has pledged to sign it into law, the AP reports. All House votes for the bill on Thursday came from white Republicans.

The bill's short title says it would prohibit "critical race theory." But the main text of the bill does not mention or define the theory, and many supporters of the bill also have said they cannot define it. The bill says no school, community college or university could teach that any "sex, race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin is inherently superior or inferior." Democratic Rep. Zakiya Summers of Jackson said she has been told by some colleagues that the bill does nothing substantial but it gives them a talking point at election time. "Censoring teachers, dismantling education bit by bit, attempting to erase the past, refusing to acknowledge the hurt and the horror and the heinous acts that have been done to my people and then hiding behind this ‘inferior versus superior’ argument—that’s what this bill will do," Summers said.

No legislators gave speeches in support of the bill. Republican Rep. Joey Hood of Ackerman, who is white, did not define critical race theory as he explained the bill Thursday. "History will continue to be taught—American history, Civil War history, Mississippi history," Hood said. When the bill passed the Republican-controlled Senate in January, all of the Black senators withheld their votes and walked out in protest. Critical race theory is an academic framework that examines how racism has shaped public policy and institutions such as the legal system, and how those have perpetuated the dominance of white people in society. State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright said critical race theory is not taught in Mississippi schools. The University of Mississippi law school offers an elective class on the theory.

(Read more Mississippi stories.)

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