Few conversations in the United States are as important as the ones surrounding race. How we educate Ohio students about slavery, racism, discrimination and their impact on society today shapes our students’ ability to function in a racially and ethnically diverse nation. HB 322 and HB 327 represent a serious threat to Ohio students’ capacity for understanding current racism and discrimination in our society and its historical antecedents. We must not restrict our students’ ability to understand and engage with issues surrounding race simply because some aspects of these issues make some members of the historically dominant racial group uncomfortable.
We strongly oppose these proposed bills on the following grounds:
The sponsors and cosponsors of HB 322 and HB 327 are exclusively white legislators. White legislators alone should not be dictating the terms for discussions of race in Ohio educational institutions. Any legislation involving discussion of race should involve broad and substantial input from non-white voices and should accommodate non-white perspectives. White legislators unilaterally setting the terms for discussions of race in our educational institutions is blatant white supremacy.
Legislation that dictates which ideas cannot be discussed in public schools is legislative overreach. Ironically, this legislation is being supported by members of a political party that claims to support limited government and condemns government interference. The Ohio Legislature should not be in the business of banning ideas in educational institutions that some of its members happen to disagree with.
These bills, which claim to prohibit “divisive” ideas, are themselves divisive. In the words of Zack Linly, claims that legislation like this will bring us closer together ring hollow when they only consider the experience of white individuals: “Banning CRT does just as much to further the divide as teaching it apparently does”. The reality of the Black experience in the U.S. is being disregarded while a dominant white supremacist ideology is being ratified into law once again. “Prohibiting discussion of ideas that are uncomfortable for whites does not promote “unity” or avoid “divisiveness”.
This bill subtly promotes fundamentally racist ideas – in a country where many minority groups have well-documented gaps in terms of wealth, access to public education, occupational promotion, employment, and other social outcomes, it is racist to suggest that these gaps are not due to historic and structural racism and that the “meritocracy” mentioned in HB 327 is the sole determinant of these differences.
Taxpayers of all races, ethnicities, and political affiliations fund Ohio educational institutions – it is ethically wrong for legislators to withhold those taxpayer funds from educational institutions to push an agenda repugnant to a substantial portion of those taxpayers.
This is the United States of America, and in the U.S. we don’t simply outlaw ideas we disagree with. We allow free and full discussion in the marketplace of ideas, and use evidence, ethics, logic, and critical thinking rather than legislation to determine which ideas receive broad support. In a nation that values its First Amendment rights, banning ideas some politicians disagree with is simply un-American.
We call on all Ohio legislators to oppose this legislation, and for the sponsors and cosponsors of this bill to withdraw their support for these divisive bills.
Here are pdfs of sample letters for differing constituencies, along with the pdfs of HB 322 and HB 327. Please feel free to download and disseminate.