Students, government officials discuss critical race theory legislation – The Reflector online


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In the Mississippi senate, a bill was passed that is intended to restrict critical race theory from being taught as part of the curriculum. Although every Black senator walked out of the room in protest of the bill, it eventually passed.The bill, though containing "critical race theory" in the name, did not define what exactly this theory means and, thus, why its absence from schools is significant to many. According to Stephen Sawchuk, a writer for Education Week, critical race theory can be defined as a more-than-40-year-old academic concept that states that race is embedded into U.S. legal systems and policies, is a social construct and is not just the outcome of one or a few people's prejudices.Don Shaffer, director of African American Studies at Mississippi State University, gave The Reflector a statement about critical race theory.
"How we talk about race is certainly important," Shaffer wrote. "We must engage in positive and constructive dialogue that is grounded in mutual respect."Louisiana State University alumnus and current MSU graduate student Michael "Moe" Moore is studying anthropology with a focus on Black queer masculinity. He gave The Reflector his opinion on the importance of teaching history in schools with the critical race theory involved to share how certain movements in the past were racially motivated as well as the history of multiple cultures in general."We need to talk about movements and how different movements were racially based, because of the racial injustices, and talking about different cultures, other than white culture, because I think a lot of things in high school are centered for only white students," Moore said. "It kind of devalues the education that Black or brown students can have."With this definition and Moore's argument in mind, looking back at the comments from those who had the opportunity to affect the outcome of this bill is significant.Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves spoke about this topic in his 2022 State of the State Address. In his introduction, he said that teaching critical race theory puts students in one of two categories based on their skin color: the victim or the oppressor, with only a small group of ideologues being presented as saviors."When you are a victim by birth, only their generosity can save you," Reeves said. "When you are an oppressor by birth, only your silent cooperation with their radical worldview can sanctify you."Mississippi Senator David Lee Jordan from Greenwood, a member of the democratic party, questioned the necessity of the legislation. 
"This to me is not necessary," Jordan is quoted in Mississippi Today. "It creates more problems than it solves. Teach the subject matter … As a retired teacher I think it does more harm than it does good."Leah Richardson, a junior communication major from Jackson, Mississippi, spoke about her experience as a white student taking a class in African American studies. She shared the discomfort at times of being in the class, a discomfort that precedes learning."It's just opened my eyes a lot to more in-depth things that have happened with the Black community and with Black history," Richardson shared.In Moore's discussion with The Reflector, he spoke about the way that the topic of race in schools makes students feel during class, specifically white high school students. He shared that learning about the racial biases that have affected American history should make people uncomfortable."I feel like we have to normalize it," Moore said about the topics that may make white students uncomfortable. "Because the thing about it is, African Americans feel uncomfortable all the time, you know? And they have to conform. They have to code switch."Code switching, as Moore explained, is a reality that affects African Americans far too often. It is the act of changing mannerisms around different ethnic groups. For example, an African American high school student may act differently around a group of white students than around a group of other Black students.Although the bill was passed to abandon the critical race theory from being taught in Mississippi public schools, there are still split opinions on the topic as a whole. The theory has been argued to have been absent from schools for a while. Some say that encouraging this to be taught in schools incites a victim mentality in minorities, while others argue that ignoring the presence of racial influence in history is an injustice to all students.Moore spoke passionately about how instructing students about all areas of American history is beneficial. He shared that it empowers Black and brown students and urges white students to educate themselves further and take action to learn about their fellow students."It should make you feel uneasy," Moore said with emotion in his voice. "It should make you feel like you need to do something about it."

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