CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) – “When you’re using the term systemic racism and making that the focal point of so much of the discussion, soon it reframes everything.”
The Tennessee legislature passed a bill Wednesday that would strip funding from public schools that teach concepts of systemic racism in America.
It passed mostly along party lines, and has since been met with controversy.
“The system as it is in my view promotes one community over another community. And what we need to do is to share the shared history of all of our communities,” says State Representative Robin Smith, a supporter of the bill.
Rep. Smith says schools spend too much time discussing racial issues, citing falling test scores as a consequence.
“In 2019, classroom proficiencies on academics were in the thirties for third and eighth graders. And what we’re seeing is a great focus on so many topics that are outside the realm of academics,” she explains.
Meanwhile, Representative Yusuf Hakeem says that it’s important for students to learn about the mistakes of history, so they won’t repeat them.
“These are things that a lot of people don’t want to talk about. What they fail to realize is that we’re more interested in moving forward to deal with these issues and move forward as opposed to playing the blame game,” retorts Rep. Hakeem.
Representative Smith argues that she and Republican colleagues aren’t opposed to teaching historical facts, but rather the concept of critical race theory – a belief that the United States is an inherently racist country.
“While history is important, we want to make sure that the focal point of history is not subjective but objective. That we can point back to events and have them discussed dispassionately and not editorializing or in an activist type way,” says Rep. Smith.
If signed by Governor Lee, the bill would ban the teaching of ideas such as current students being privileged based on the color of their skin, or bearing responsibility for historical events like slavery.