Black Mississippi State Senators Stage Walkout as Critical Race Theory Ban Passed

“We cannot continue to stumble into the future backwards,” said one Black senator who taught for 33 years. “That’s what this bill does.”

By Brett Wilkins  Published 1-22-2022 by Common Dreams

Every Black member of the Mississippi state Senate walked out of the legislative chamber in protest on Friday as the Republican-led body passed a bill critics say will ban the teaching of critical race theory in public schools, from kindergarten through college.

S.B. 2113—titled Critical Race Theory, Prohibit—passed by a vote of 32-2 as 14 Black lawmakers filed out of the Senate chamber. Two white Democratic senators—David Blount (District 29) and Hob Bryant (District 7)—remained in the chamber to vote against the measure.

Critical race theory (CRT) is a cross-disciplinary concept developed in the 1970s by Black scholars positing that race is a social construct and racism is fundamentally embedded in U.S. social institutions.

Before walking out of the chamber, Sen. Barbara Blackmon (D-21) told colleagues that “this bill is not morally right.”

Sen. Derrick Simmons (D-12), one of the protesters, said that “we felt like it was a bill that was not deserving of our vote.”

“We have so many issues in the state that need to be addressed,” Simmons told Mississippi Today. “We did not need to spend time on this. Even the author of the bill said this was not occurring in Mississippi.”

Mississippi GOP state senators, some of whom said CRT is subjective and teaches “victimhood,” admitted that the concept is not being taught in the state’s schools.

The bill’s author, Sen. Michael McLendon (R-1)—who struggled to define CRT when asked by an NPR reporter—insisted that “systematic racism should not be taught to our children.”

McLendon said hundreds of his constituents heard about CRT through the media and did not want it taught to their children.

Sen. John Horhn (D-26) pushed back on the right-wing notion that systemic racism is subjective, noting that Mississippi is “the only state in the country that does not have a fair housing law.”

According to Education Week, over the past year 35 states have introduced bills or taken other action to ban or restrict CRT teaching or limit discussion of racism and sexism in schools. Republican-led legislatures in 14 states have passed laws or taken other measures to impose such restrictions.

Mississippi state Sen. David Jordan (D-24), who is Black and said he was a teacher for 33 years, told CNN that S.B. 2113 is unnecessary.

“This is not needed. It’s a waste of time, your time and mine,” he insisted. “I know there are people out there who got fear but as a good senator you can relay to them that there is no basis for it.”

“It is sad that we have wasted so much time on something that’s not even necessary,” Jordan said before walking out of the chamber. “We cannot continue to stumble into the future backwards. That’s what this bill does. That’s why we don’t need it.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).
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