Ray Carter | June 17, 2021
Lawmakers say anti-CRT work not done
Although House Bill 1775, which bans teaching children racist concepts associated with Critical Race Theory, was signed into law this year, the bill’s authors say that doesn’t mean the fight is over in Oklahoma.
Sen. David Bullard said House Bill 1775 “is not the last line of defense.”
“If you are anywhere near a school board, you are the last line of defense,” said Bullard, R-Durant. “1775 is merely just a tool for you to use to take your school back.”
“This isn’t the end-all,” said Rep. Kevin West, R-Moore. “That we passed 1775 and the governor signed it into law does not mean that we can wash our hands of this. Because, as you’ve seen in the media, we have teachers that have actually been listed in news articles who have come out and said, ‘I don’t care what the law says, we’re going to teach this.’”
Both lawmakers addressed HB 1775 during a joint appearance in Oklahoma City where citizens gathered to learn more about the challenges of Marxist-derived Critical Race Theory, which classifies people as either oppressors or oppressed based on factors such as race or sexual identity and assigns guilt regardless of any individual’s actions.
House Bill 1775, by West and Bullard, prevents state colleges from requiring students to take “any form of mandatory gender or sexual diversity training or counseling” and states that any “orientation or requirement that presents any form of race or sex stereotyping or a bias on the basis of race or sex shall be prohibited.”
The bill prevents K-12 schools from requiring or making part of a course any material that declares “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex” or that “an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”
It also bans teaching that any individual “should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex” or that “members of one race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race or sex.” Under the bill K-12 schools could not teach that “an individual’s moral character is necessarily determined by his or her race or sex” or that an individual, “by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex.” The legislation also prohibits teaching that students should “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex” or that “meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist or were created by members of a particular race to oppress members of another race.”
“Every single one of these concepts that we list should be concepts that everybody agrees on,” West said.
The two lawmakers said the core tenets of Critical Race Theory, if left unchecked in public school lessons, will only guarantee endless and unwarranted strife.
West noted critical-race-theory leader Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist, has written, “The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.”
West said that is a prescription for “an endless cycle of discrimination.”
Teachers in numerous Oklahoma school districts have pledged to disregard the law.
Some opponents of HB 1775 argued that Critical Race Theory is not taught in most Oklahoma classrooms. But Bullard and West said they were contacted by individuals across Oklahoma who provided evidence to the contrary.
“I got the argument oftentimes that said, ‘But it’s not here yet. It’s in another state,’” Bullard said. “By that point I already had probably thousands—but was for sure in the hundreds—of teachers and parents who were emailing me assignments being given to students in Oklahoma that follow every precept that we talk about. The back door is not just open. The thief is in your house, and most people don’t even know it.”
“I had hundreds of emails from teachers, from students, from administrators, saying, ‘Yes, this is happening, and here’s the cases where it’s happening,’” West said.
Since HB 1775 was introduced, many school officials have publicly argued that the elements of Critical Race Theory should be made mandatory in schools and vowed to ignore the law.
The Oklahoma City school board voted to denounce the law with one board member, Carrie Coppernoll Jacobs, who is white and previously worked as a teacher, declaring, “The conversations that happened in my classroom would absolutely have been illegal under House Bill 1775.”
The Zinn Education Project, named for educator and onetime Communist Party member Howard Zinn, has declared that HB 1775 and other bills like it filed in 14 other states “require teachers to lie to students about the role of racism, sexism, heterosexism, and oppression throughout U.S. history.”
The Zinn organization has urged teachers to sign a pledge to ignore measures like HB 1775 and “refuse to lie to young people about U.S. history and current events—regardless of the law.” The webpage for the pledge declares that “the major institutions and systems of our country are deeply infected with anti-Blackness and its intersection with other forms of oppression.”
The signatories of the anti-HB 1775 pledge on the Zinn site include self-identified Oklahoma educators from across the state.
Summer Boismier of Piedmont wrote on the Zinn site, “My students in Oklahoma deserve the truth from at least one person.”
Boismier served on the writing committee that developed the 2020-2021 Oklahoma Academic Standards for English Language Arts. Those standards substantially determine what is taught in English in all public schools.
Tyrell Albin, an English teacher in the Lawton school district, declared that education “should always deal in truth, not mythology, or outright lies.” Another Lawton district teacher, Jennie Hanna, wrote, “No matter how much lawmakers try to control and contain it, the truth will always be there, and I know what side of history I want to be on.”
Zach Dewoody, a teacher in Shawnee, wrote, “Students must be taught the truth, no matter how uncomfortable it makes people.”
Megan Ruby of Stillwater wrote, “The way to end racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and all the other isms and phobias is to teach how being that way is harmful and how we can make better choices. I will always teach what is right and your immoral law won’t stop me.”
In January, Ruby was listed as an advanced doctoral student in Curriculum Studies at Oklahoma State University who “identifies as non-binary” and whose “research interests include critical whiteness studies, critical race theory, feminist pedagogy, and gender and education.”
Other self-identified educators who signed onto the Zinn project’s anti-HB 1775 pledge included individuals from Owasso, Oklahoma City, Duncan, Cache, McAlester, Norman, Park Hill, Broken Arrow, Tulsa, and Edmond.
While proponents of Critical Race Theory describe it as truth-telling, West said his review of the material not only showed otherwise but was also deeply disturbing.
“When I was studying to present the bill, I actually had to walk away from the documentation multiple times because it was just so horrible, some of the things that they’re teaching some of these kids,” West said. “When you have first graders having to deconstruct their race and their sex and then examine how they have ‘white privilege’—and you’re talking about first graders, I mean, that’s horrible no matter what the age, but especially when you’re talking that young.”
Bullard, a former history teacher, said the deliberate divisiveness of Critical Race Theory and its guilt-by-association tenets cannot lead to good outcomes.
“If you want to follow every sin of humankind, it originates with this: It is that we devalue the life and individual worth of a human being,” Bullard said. “Every single sin committed in mankind’s history comes off of that. Critical race theory is that sin.”
Bullard and West said the agency regulations now being developed by the Oklahoma State Department of Education to implement HB 1775 will give the law teeth by providing consequences for violations. But they both stressed the importance of parents and grandparents being involved in their local schools to ensure enforcement.
“This is just the first step of many,” West said. “We have to be involved in our children’s schoolwork, our grandchildren. We have to be paying attention to these board meetings. It’s on us as the grassroots, as the people that are actually having to deal with this, bringing these to light, calling these board members out, calling these teachers out when they violate this.”
Director, Center for Independent Journalism
Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.