Ray Carter | January 5, 2022

OSSBA offers schools lesson that bashes racial equality

Ray Carter

A digital resources library offered to Oklahoma schools by the Oklahoma State School Boards Association (OSSBA) includes a “Racial Equity and Justice Initiative Challenge to Change Series” for students as young as pre-K that denounces the concept of racial equality and suggests only white individuals can be racist.

Those lessons also direct Oklahoma teachers to other resources that declare black citizens “are suffering and not safe” in modern American society and encourage litigation against oil-and-gas businesses in the name of environmental justice.

The OSSBA’s Oklahoma Library of Digital Resources is described as “an innovative initiative to provide Oklahoma educators with high-quality, interactive teaching resources” that are “vetted by Oklahoma teachers and support Oklahoma Academic Standards.” The library is maintained by the OSSBA.

The OSSBA library includes Apple’s Racial Equity and Justice Initiative Challenge to Change Series, including a lesson on how to “Create Opportunities for Meaningful Conversations About Race.”

“To begin the journey of making lasting change, we’ve created this guide that helps you explore ways to have courageous conversations around issues of racial injustice and to design solutions that lead to lasting social change,” the lesson declares. “As you take on this first challenge, Create Opportunities for Meaningful Conversations About Race, be prepared to be uncomfortable, and lean into your vulnerability.”

The racial-equity series defines equality as meaning that “everyone has the same rights, opportunities, and resources. It stresses fairness and parity in access to social goods and services.” But the lesson then decries the concept of equality in its definition of equity.

“Equity recognizes that the same thing for everyone (equality) doesn’t truly address needs, and therefore, specific solutions and remedies—which may be different for different people—are necessary,” the lesson states.

The racial-equity lesson also indicates that only white individuals are capable of racism by defining racism as “the marginalization or oppression of people of color based on a socially constructed racial hierarchy that privileges white people.”

The lesson also declares that “microaggressions” are “the everyday slights, indignities, put-downs, and insults that people of color, women, LGBTQ populations, and other marginalized people experience in their day-to-day interactions.”

The lesson prominently lists other resources that teachers can use, such as the website of the Equal Justice Initiative, which declares, “Today, 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, very little has been done to address the legacy of slavery and its meaning in contemporary life.”

It also directs teachers to the site of Greater Good in Education, which declares, “The deep, gaping wounds in our country stemming from centuries of racist ideology and practices have resulted in the senseless murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and too many others from the Black community at the hands of law enforcement. The dehumanization that stems from ‘othering’ one another has led us to this painful and pivotal moment in our history. Our Black family members, friends, neighbors, colleagues, fellow citizens are suffering and not safe, and treated as if they don’t matter.”

The recommended resources page also directs teachers to the Kirwan Institute’s “Talking About Race: Toward a Transformative Agenda.” That document declares a policy of colorblindness is a form of racism.

“Colorblind racism is the belief that—despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary—race is not a significant factor in determining how opportunities, benefits, and burdens are distributed across the county’s population; that all Americans have an equal opportunity to achieve the ‘American dream,’” the Kirwan document states. “This form of racism can weaken support for programs and policies that are designed to remove racialized barriers to opportunity.”

Litigation Against Oil and Gas Companies

Another lesson in Apple’s Racial Equity and Justice Initiative Challenge to Change Series that is included in the OSSBA library focuses on how to “create a better world through environmental justice.”

That lesson’s list of “common environmental challenges” includes “fossil fuels” and “climate change.”

The document includes suggested “guiding questions” for students, including, “How does environmental justice improve the world?” and “What environmental injustices exist in my community?”

Among the recommended resources highlighted in that lesson plan is the “Global Climate Litigation Report” from the United Nations (UN). That report claims that “the future impacts of climate change will far outstrip the devastation of the current global coronavirus pandemic.” The UN document also states that climate lawsuits targeting private businesses “can produce altered regulatory environments, delay or denial of proposed projects, injunctions to adapt infrastructure, or potentially massive damages awards.”

One section of the UN report focuses on how lawsuits can be used to advance the goal of “keeping fossil fuels—and carbon sinks—in the ground.”

The OSSBA was among the opponents of House Bill 1775, which was signed into law in 2021.

House Bill 1775 prohibits Oklahoma’s K-12 schools from teaching several concepts broadly 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.”

Following passage of the law, OSSBA officials declared that HB 1775 “is harmful to our students” and will “confuse teachers,” and that it is a “lie” to tell children skin color doesn’t matter.

OSSBA executive director Shawn Hime also wrote, “The Oklahoma State School Boards Association is committed to continuing conversations about race and racism and making those conversations a priority. We are asking ourselves hard questions and are committed to providing training and resources that educate and empower school board members and administrators to lead these conversations in their communities.”

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

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.

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