John Thompson, historian and retired teacher, reports that the Republican Governor and Legislature are determined to stop teachers from teaching about racism, sexism, and bias because such topics Dow discord and racism. This “cancel culture” at its worst. Every sentient adult who has studied American history knows that racism runs deep and strong in our history and present culture and the best way to eliminate it to confront it honestly.

Thompson writes:

As Education Week explained, across the nation, legislators are attempting to “make it harder for teachers to talk about racism, sexism, and bias in the classroom,” and directly or indirectly ban Critical Race Theory. Oklahoma passed HR 1775 banning mandatory gender or sexual diversity training or counseling, while implicitly threatening lessons about racism.

Oklahoma provides just one example of the way public education and civil discussions are under assault. But it allows us to take inventory of the fraught overall situation, and why the assault on anti-racism is so disturbing and divisive.

As Public Radio Tulsa reported:

HB1775 takes most of its language from an executive order then-President Donald Trump issued in 2020 to ban diversity training by federal agencies and entities receiving federal funding. Civil rights groups challenged that order in court, and a judge blocked it. President Joe Biden rescinded it after taking office.

But, according to Gov. Kevin Stitt, “House Bill 1775 codifies” the words of Martin Luther King calling for “a day when people in America would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Gov. Stitt also said, “now more than ever, we need policies that bring us closer together – not rip us apart.” But the Black Wall Street Times reports that its questions for the governor met with this response:

The spokesperson stated, “Hi Sarah, thanks for reaching out but our policy is to respond to journalists, not activists pretending to be reporters. Good luck! – Carly”.

The Oklahoma City Free Press reports that the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission protested: “the intention of the bill clearly aims to limit teaching the racial implications of America’s history. The bill serves no purpose than to fuel the racism and denial that afflicts our communities and our nation. It is a sad day and a stain on Oklahoma.”

But one of the bill’s authors said it was necessary because of the “harmful indoctrination [which] has infiltrated Oklahoma schools from as early as pre-kindergarten classrooms all the way through college courses.”

Although conservatives now claim their “cut and paste” bills are anti-racist, the Washington Post’sPaul Waldman correctly explains they want to be attacked as racist so they can claim, “We’re the real victims here.”

And a look at the rightwingers’ spin makes their mindset clear. For instance Oklahoma Sen. Shane Jett told the Washington Times that his office “is investigating a handful of K-12 schools where the left-wing philosophy is being taught or incorporated in online classroom materials.” He blames the University of Oklahoma, i.e. “the Democratic People’s Republic of Norman,” for this Marxist indoctrination.”

The Oklahoma Policy Institute’s Ahniwake Rose writes, We don’t have to dig too deeply to see that Oklahomans still need schooling on these subjects” that HR 1775 makes more risky to teach. Rose notes:

In just the first four months of this year, we have made national news for: a lawmaker referring to “colored babies” in a floor debate, a lawmaker saying transgender people suffer from “mental illness,” another lawmaker comparing efforts to end abortion to the fight against slavery, one elected official comparing Black Lives Matter to the KKK, a state senator making a lewd oral sex reference about the nation’s first Black female vice president during a television interview, a school teacher telling his middle school class that we need a “white history month” after seeing one of his students wearing a t-shirt expressing Black pride and sports announcers caught on a hot mic referring to high school basketball players as “f—– n——.”

Digging just a little deeper, the Human Rights Campaign notes that HR 1775 “is the eighteenth anti-LGBTQ bill to be enacted this year. In addition, 8 anti-LGBTQ bills are on governors’ desks awaiting signature or veto and several more are continuing to move through state legislatures across the country, including SB2 in Oklahoma.”

Moreover, this week’s New York Times reported that, “Two brothers, 8 and 5, (who are Black) were removed from their Oklahoma elementary school classrooms this past week and made to wait out the school day in a front office for wearing T-shirts that read ‘Black Lives Matter.’” The schoolsuperintendent saw the shirts as disruptive “in this emotionally charged environment,” where politics is creating such “anxiety … that I don’t want our kids to deal with.”

This leads to the next source of anxiety for schools navigating the new law as the 100-year anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre begins on Memorial Day. And that raises the question of whether HR 1775 would also criminalize the Centennial Commission’s curriculum on the Tulsa Massacre?  (And would teachers risk their jobs by drawing upon the “Killers of the Flower Moon” and telling its story of the mass murder of Osages in order to still their oil land rights?)

So, would it be risky for a teacher to assign Tulsa, 1921: Reporting a Massacre by the Tulsa World’sRandy Krehbiel. It presents both sides of the argument whether the desire to take the land owned by black Tulsans was a cause or an effect of the burning of Greenwood. Krehbiel concludes that the prime driver of the mass murder was anger by whites prompted by blacks seeking equal social status, as he also concludes that racism was “engrained” in every aspect of the Jim Crow culture. Could a teacher include that judgment in a lesson on the Massacre? This week, however, the Oklahoma City School Board voted their unanimous opposition to HR 1775, and the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission is being pressured to remove Gov. Stitt and others who supported that “potentially crippling legislation” from its board, as it was announced by “the New Black Panther Party and affiliated organizations that 1,000 armed Black men will march in Tulsa on the weekend of the observance.”

The passage of HR 1775 was almost certainly about sowing discord, even more than changing instruction. So, what’s next?