Every Black Mississippi state senator walked out of the state’s upper chamber Friday to protest a bill prohibiting the teaching of critical race theory.
The legislation, per CNN, does not mention or define critical race theory. It also does not mention any specific subject matter teachers should not discuss with students in class.
The bill passed in the Senate by a vote of 32-2 after the Black lawmakers walked out. If signed into law, Senate Bill 2113 would forbid public schools in Mississippi from forcing students to agree “that any sex, race, ethnicity, religion or national origin is inherently superior or inferior.”
During an hour long debate, Republican Sen. Chris McDaniel said that he could not “find the mischief” in the language of the bill. McDaniel said the bill would have been considered “the most dynamic piece of civil rights legislation in this state’s history” if it had been introduced in the 1950s when schools were segregated in the state.
Democrats also grilled the bill’s sponsor Sen. Michael McLendon. The Republican Sen., who is white, said his constituents told him they heard about critical race theory on national news and they don’t want it taught to their children.
According to the Associated Press, the state superintendent of education has said critical race theory is not currently being taught in Mississippi schools. The contentious concept that has dominated Republican campaigns and talking points for months actually seeks to understand and address inequality and racism in the U.S.
AP reports that McLendon struggled to define critical race theory ahead of the vote, but said, “Systematic racism should not be taught to our children.”
“So it’s a problem across the country; is it a problem in Mississippi?” asked state Senate Minority Leader Derrick Simmons. “Well, we try to make laws for the future as well as today,” McLendon replied.
Democratic state Sen. David Jordan, who said he had worked as a teacher for 33 years, told McLendon the bill was not needed.
“It’s a waste of time, your time and mine. 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,” Jordan said. “It is sad that we have wasted so much time on something that’s not even necessary.”
“We cannot continue to stumble into the future backwards. That’s what this bill does. That’s why we don’t need it,” he added.
“This bill is not morally right,” Democratic Sen. Barbara Blackmon of Canton said during the debate.
Senate Bill 2113 still has to pass through the Mississippi House of Representatives and be signed by Gov. Tate Reeves before it becomes a law.
— WLBT 3 On Your Side (@WLBT) January 21, 2022