People often talk about what they might have done if they were alive during the civil rights movement. But Black state senators in Mississippi just put their values into action, walking out during a vote on a bill that prohibits the teaching of critical race theory.
Just days after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the majority-white Republican-controlled state senate passed a bill to ban a concept not taught in public schools. In a video shared by WLBT, viewers can see Black senators walking out of the chamber as a roll call vote begins.
The walkout didn’t stop the vote, but Black senators would rather withhold their participation instead of engaging in a sham process that does not honor and respect the experiences and history of many within the state.
“We walked out as a means to show a visible protest to these proceedings,” state Sen. John Horhn told Mississippi Today.
The outlet recounted a time nearly 30 years ago when the Black caucus boycotted a speech by former Gov. Kirk Fordice, but could not recall a time when legislators walked out of a legislative chamber in the middle of a vote.
Republican senators are wasting energy on something not taught in K-12 schools. It’s not even taught in most law schools. But conservatives have latched on to the phrase as a catchall for attacking anything related to creating more equitable environments in schools. Diversity, equity and inclusion and even social and emotional learning have been attacked as a broader campaign by conservative groups looking to create a fight in a new wave of culture wars.
Last June, NBC News documented the well-funded organizing effort to undermine equity in education. Despite the framing of various conservative groups, this isn’t simply about parents being concerned about their students but a well-planned effort to obstruct progress and inclusion.
This bill could prevent accurate teaching of history, like members of the Mississippi legislature led by segregationist Sen. James Eastland blocked anti-lynching legislation from passing in 1948.
According to US News, Mississippi ranks 43 in education, 49 in the economy, 48 in infrastructure and last in health care out of all 50 states. Mississippi is one of several states that refuses to expand Medicaid, improving health outcomes for thousands across the state. It seems like the Mississippi legislature could be spending its time on legislation that is more beneficial to people around the state.
Nationally proponents of anti-critical race theory actions claim they are merely concerned with curriculum transparency. Except for their efforts over the past year, including participating in a massive disinformation campaign, suggest otherwise.
A similar law passed in Texas led one school district to suggest it was important to teach “both sides” about the holocaust.
Also, curriculums are not top-secret documents. Transparency doesn’t mean book banning either.
While some on social media were quick to dismiss the bill’s passage due to it happening in Mississippi, attacks on equity in education have been happening across the country, even playing a role in the 2021 Virginia Governor’s race.
For their part, Black elected officials across the county have been holding the line against white supremacy in legislation at the state and local levels. Last year, Black state representatives in Florida took a stand against a bill that criminalizes protest. In Georgia, Rep. Park Cannon was arrested after she knocked on the governor’s door as he signed legislation restricting voting access in the Peach State.