Oklahoma school-board group says ban on racism will harm children

July 9, 2021

Ray Carter

A top official with the Oklahoma State School Boards Association (OSSBA) has declared a ban on teaching children that people are inherently racist based solely on skin color “is harmful to our students” and will “confuse teachers.”

Another top OSSBA official has declared it a “lie” to tell children that skin color doesn’t matter and said school officials should rethink the academic expectations they hold for black students.

Both officials made those comments in recent blog posts regarding House Bill 1775, which prohibits Oklahoma’s K-12 schools from teaching several concepts associated with Critical Race Theory, including that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex,” that “an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive,” or that individuals “should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex.”

OSSBA staff attorney Brandon Carey, who previously served as general counsel for Oklahoma City Public Schools, wrote that HB 1775 “is harmful to our students and ultimately our state” and said the law is “an attempt to chill classroom discussions of systemic racism and sexism” that will “confuse teachers just enough that they’ll forego tough discussions.”

While claiming the bill is an “obstacle to democracy” that will cause widespread harm, Carey simultaneously referenced the specific provisions of HB 1775 and said Oklahoma schools “are teaching none of this” and that lesson plans “are not based on any of these ‘concepts.’”

However, since HB 1775 was signed into law, some Oklahoma teachers and administrators have publicly vowed to defy the law, and the National Education Association, the parent group of Oklahoma’s largest teachers’ union, has publicly endorsed use of Critical Race Theory in public-school classrooms and vowed to promote it.

In a similar blog post, OSSBA executive director Shawn Hime wrote, “Until last week, here’s what I told my kids: Color doesn’t matter. I didn’t mean to lie. It does matter.” [Emphasis in original.]

Hime said OSSBA is “committed” to making conversations about race and racism “a priority” and will be “providing training and resources that educate and empower school board members and administrators to lead these conversations in their communities.”

In March, Carey and Hime were participants in a Twitter chat involving Oklahoma teachers and school administrators in which participants declared the state’s public schools are steeped in racism. During that online conversation, Carey said teachers need professional development training on systemic racism “provided by those that have experienced oppression.”

Both Carey and Hime are white, but throughout his post Carey highlighted the fact that he has two adopted children who are black.

“Since white culture has been inundated with stories that imply black equals trouble, our children are one ‘suspicious’ situation away from arrest and a criminal record,” Carey wrote.

He added that when his children become adults, “regardless of their educational achievements” they will “be more likely to be unemployed than white people” and his son “is six times more likely to end up in jail just because of the color of his skin.”

In his post, Hime noted “academic outcomes of black children lag behind that of their white peers” and said school-board members should “ask themselves tough questions” about whether school policies on academic expectations are among those that “have a disproportionate effect on black students.”

While Carey highlighted his adopted children in his post, one prominent author popularly associated with Critical Race Theory has described parents in such interracial adoptions as “White colonizers.”

On Sept. 26, 2020, Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist, tweeted, “Some White colonizers ‘adopted’ Black children. They ‘civilized’ these ‘savage’ children in the ‘superior’ ways of White people, while using them as props in their lifelong pictures of denial, while cutting the biological parents of these children out of the picture of humanity.”

Kendi later amplified, “It is a belief too many White people have: if they have or adopt a child of color, then they can’t be racist.”

Kendi has written that the “only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination.”

In a recent MSNBC interview, Kendi said he does not “identify as a critical race theorist,” but in a separate July 8 podcast interview he declared that Critical Race Theory is “foundational” to “being Antiracist.”

“I just can't imagine a pathway to being Antiracist that does not engage Critical Race Theory,” Kendi said.

Some critics of Critical Race Theory have highlighted how it can literally pit one family member against another.

In a column published earlier this month, U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds, a Florida Republican who is black, wrote, “The essence of critical race theory would teach my three bi-racial children that I, their Black father, am oppressed by America’s history of White supremacy and that their mother, my wife, is my oppressor. But, what does that mean for my children? Does half of them qualify as oppressed, and the other half count as the oppressor?”

Donalds labeled Critical Race Theory “divisive at its core” and said it was the “definition of reverse racism” that “spits in the face of the Civil Rights Movement led by American heroes such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”