The Georgia Assembly is aiming to silence schools that acknowledge and discuss the ongoing presence of racism and oppression present in the United States.
In the 2021-2022 Georgia Legislative Session, House Bill 888 was introduced and assigned to the Education House Committee. This bill is sponsored by Powell (32nd), Leverett (33rd), Jasperse (11th), Washburn (141st), Smith (18th), Crowe (110th), and is intended to amend Title 20 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated. This bill focuses on race-related education in public school systems, specifically aiming to penalize school districts and educators that teach race in ways deemed “inappropriate.” If a district includes inappropriate race curriculum then the school is at risk of losing 20% of its state funding, which is an exponential cost. The bill argues that the United States is foundationally against systems of oppression, including slavery and racial discrimination, and that a civil war was fought to eliminate these practices. Therefore, a curriculum discussing modern-day oppression and systemic racism should not be at the center of education.
The bill aims for education and curriculum to have an “inspirational” view on America’s past, highlighting that Americans in the past fought against discriminatory practices. However, this argument is clearly flawed; while systems such as slavery and laws that deny BIPOC Americans constitutional rights have been eradicated there are systems of oppression that are actively discriminating against BIPOC in 2022. This bill attempts to “alleviate guilt” by avoiding a relevant topic, especially in current times. By ignoring how the past still impacts the future, children are not exposed to the fact that not everyone is given the same opportunities. This, in turn, means that racism and its manifestations will never be addressed. If the state truly cared about creating an “inspirational” America, wherein racism and oppression were not actively weighing down on individuals’ experiences, then they should work to address these issues. Simply pretending that they do not exist will further harm Georgia and the United States as a whole.
Creating a safe and open environment in which children feel comfortable discussing race is crucial. Manifestations of racism and oppression do not always take an explicit form. Take, for example, Black women’s hair. The CROWN Act, a law signed in some states in 2019, prohibits discrimination based on hairstyle or texture in both the workplace, as well as schools. This law was created to protect against discrimination faced by Black Americans due to their hair. Black women are sent home 1.5 times more than white women, because of their hair being deemed “unprofessional” in the workplace. This is an unfair, racially-biased, practice that impacts Black Americans’ ability to receive an education, as many Black students have been asked to leave school because of their hairstyle, or get jobs. Students without these experiences may never be aware of what their colleagues or classmates are experiencing and will have difficulty understanding why discussions about systemic racism are occurring in America’s political landscape.
Systemic racism needs to be discussed in schools’ curricula, as the only way to eradicate these practices is by recognizing them. This bill blatantly ignores the significance of systematic racism, and to ensure that schools don’t educate students, it is proposing a fine that would result in a large financial burden on schools. In the United States, where the importance of freedom of speech is so heavily stressed, it is absurd that actively denying education and discussion of a past and present issue, has such a strong support group.