Fixated on defending the indefensible, Republicans like Justin Lafferty continue to make a mockery of history. A Tennessee state representative, Lafferty, made headlines Tuesday for claiming the Three-Fifths Compromise was enacted to ensure slavery didn’t spread.
During a debate about a bill amendment that would prevent teachers from teaching about systemic racism, Lafferty shared his uninformed opinion.
“The Three-Fifths Compromise was a direct effort to ensure that southern states never got the population necessary to continue the practice of slavery everywhere else in the country,” Lafferty said in defense of his position.
He also claimed that people need to “start with the truth.” Truth is a fascinating concept. But facts do matter. And the facts around the formation of this country, the legacy of slavery and the willingness of the founders to look beyond the immoral institution are well documented.
Lafferty’s position is about slavers being denied power and outsized influence. It’s no wonder he and his fellow Republicans across the country continue to double down on these types of arguments. They see the current attempts for a more reflective and inclusive society, from curriculum to democracy, as a loss of power.
Allowing states to count enslaved Black people, who otherwise had no rights afforded to white people, gave slaveholding states greater political influence. Omitting facts and distorting outcomes is not a noble challenge.
But what are facts and fair dealings to a man who tried to obstruct the outcome of a valid presidential election? Despite Lafferty’s fondness for the “truth,” he was among 23 Tennessee elected officials who opposed the certification of the Electoral College vote.
A few weeks ago, a Colorado Republican representative made a lynching joke and tried to defend the Three-Fifths Compromise during a floor debate. State Rep. Ron Hanks attended Trump’s Jan. 6 rally that preceded the Capitol attack.
It may seem like Republican elected officials are trying to outdo each other in a ridiculous defense of slavery Olympics. But after the Trump administration’s failed 1776 Commission and an attack on the nation’s Capitol, the GOP continues to undermine racial equity and inclusivity.
Republican-controlled legislatures across the country continue to introduce bills and amendments to protect the status quo of America as valiant and good, from its founding to the present. These attacks on the 1619 Project, Critical Race Theory, and related topics maintain white supremacy.
As 1619 Project creator and journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones recently tweeted, no one is forcing states to adopt particular curriculums.
Neither Hannah-Jones nor the New York Times is demanding schools adopt the 1619 Project as a curriculum. But it exists as a resource to expand learning and understanding.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell recently claimed that 1619 wasn’t as important of a year worth recognition as several dates related to the white founders and the civil war. 1619 represents the first year enslaved Africans were brought to the shores of what is now the United States.
Organizer Bree Newsome astutely pointed out that McConnell, and by extension his party, can claim slavery is an inconsequential factor in American history. Still, the actions of this country’s leaders say otherwise.
McConnell’s denial cannot be separated from his refusal to call up bills like the Voting Rights Advancement Act that would permit fair political participation.
Silencing attempts at honest reconciliation with the past allow continued distortion of the present. Similar to the 1619 Project, Critical Race Theory is a favorite boogeyman of the right.
After Trump’s executive order attacking diversity programs and trainings, Kimberlé Crenshaw spoke with CNN about Critical Race Theory challenging framing from the right.
“It’s an approach to grappling with a history of White supremacy that rejects the belief that what’s in the past is in the past, and that the laws and systems that grow from that past are detached from it,” Crenshaw said.
Crenshaw, a noted legal scholar, professor, and founding critical race theorist, formed the African American Policy Forum in 1996 to build bridges and focus on issues to address systemic oppression.
As a framework, Critical Race Theory allows for an understanding of the throughline from the Freedom Rides 60 years ago to the fight for racial justice, voting rights, and democracy today.
The targeting of racial equity in education is a part of a larger effort to keep power in a rapidly shifting society. Keeping things divided and ignorant of history, the likes of Lafferty and McConnell.
It’s 2021, and news of racist lessons gone wrong in schools across the country continues to pop up, proving the need for clear guidance on discussing slavery, racism, and other forms of inequality.