Tennessee General Assembly Bans Teaching of Critical Race Theory in Public Schools

The Tennessee House of Representatives convene at the end of the legislative session in the Tennessee House of Representatives in Nashville, Tenn., on Wednesday, May 5, 2021.

The Tennessee General Assembly has banned the teaching of critical race theory, passing a law at the very end of the legislative session to withhold funding from public schools that teach about white privilege.

Republicans in the House made the legislation a last-minute priority, introducing provisions that ban schools from instructing students that one race bears responsibility for the past actions against another, that the United States is fundamentally racist or that a person is inherently privileged or oppressive due to their race.

Similar proposals surfaced in other states this year, including one in Idaho that has been signed into law by the governor. Texas Republicans are also pushing a proposal to ban CRT in schools.

Critical race theory teaches that racism is ingrained in U.S. institutions and that people who are white benefit from it. The concept and whether schools, churches and other corporations should subscribe to it has been a source of controversy within institutions for several years, but has received heightened attention in recent months.

Since the House and Senate versions had differences, the legislation went to a conference committee Wednesday. That’s where Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, proposed multiple additions, including forbidding teaching students that “the rule of law does not exist, but instead is a series of power relationships and struggles among racial or other groups.”

“That is the very definition of critical race theory,” Kelsey said after reading the line aloud. “I was subject to this teaching 20 years ago in law school and know it very well, and that is the very definition of it.”

The bill prompted a lengthy, spirited debate on the Senate floor, where the chamber’s three Black women each spoke out against the legislation.

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SOURCE: Nashville Tennessean, Natalie Allison

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