Whitewashing our history sets a dangerous precedent

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Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us that “Justice denied anywhere diminishes justice everywhere.” The events following the murder of George Floyd have sparked optimism that our nation has long stood on the precipice of racial reckoning, healing and justice for all. Images of protests across the country have shown the power of inclusiveness as people from all walks of life – young and old, multiracial and ethnic, rich and poor, women and men – fight for racial justice .

However, the pursuit of racial justice has met with stiff resistance. Those who oppose racial equity and justice have sought to use the legal system to perpetuate the exclusion of the voices and perspectives of historically marginalized (and once non-citizen) citizens of the United States of America.

Beginning with attempts to suppress black and brown votes and continuing the national debate on critical race theory and the teaching of American history, many lawmakers across the country, including Ohio, have introduced bills to thwart our progress. As the debate hit the Ohio Statehouse last week, supporters of Ohio House Bills 322 and 327 seek to ban uncomfortable truths from American history by ambiguously restricting the teaching of related concepts to “race or sex”.

The legislation proposed by Ohio is really designed to prohibit the teaching of concepts like race, racism, white supremacy, privilege, justice, fairness. It might even limit teaching on content like slavery, civil rights, and women’s suffrage – all important historical movements that challenged the dominant power structure. Inclusive education addresses the diverse perspectives of our country throughout history, examining systemic racism intertwined with sexism, classism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and homophobia among other systems of exclusion.

EquaSion is disheartened and concerned about these legislative efforts to whitewash American history. Although intended as an effort to promote unity by prohibiting the teaching of “divisive concepts”, i.e. critical race theory (CRT), the bills would deprive students of Ohio of historical facts and awareness of diverse perspectives, while prohibiting civic engagement and the development of critical thinking skills. These bills set the dangerous precedent that the government, not educators at the local level, decides what students will learn.

Although intended as an effort to promote unity by prohibiting the teaching of "division concepts," that is, Critical Race Theory (CRT), Ohio Bills 322 and 327 would deprive Ohio students of historical facts and awareness of various perspectives, all by prohibiting civic engagement and the development of critical thinking skills, say members of the board of directors of the EquaSion group.

As an organization dedicated to promoting racial equity and justice, we are committed to providing inclusive and honest education. The education system is the market for the exchange of ideas and the sharing of knowledge. Our nation is endowed with its capacity to innovate because of its multiculturalism, its origins and its diverse perspectives. In an academic setting, diversity of thought is our greatest treasure.

Restricting or censoring the teaching of race (racism) or gender (sexism), as proposed by law, ultimately deprives students of history lessons and stifles the development of critical thinking. We fear that the lesson learned by schools and students is that difficult subjects should be avoided, critical thinking discouraged, and past mistakes denied.

It is the opposite of what, as adults, we must mold to our young people: that to love our country is to know its history, to seek its truth, and with courage and honesty to accept the rose and the thorns – the face what is uplifting in our past and what is painful. The blessing and gift of diversity did not happen simply or easily, and to move forward as a “more perfect union” we must know the truth about the common history that has made us this. that we are. Bills 322 and 327, if passed, would make this immeasurably more difficult.

Tammy Bennett, Jan Armstrong Cobb and Tamie Sullivan are members of the EquaSion Board of Directors. EquaSion is a Cincinnati-based, non-partisan civic organization founded on interfaith dialogue that encompasses more than 30 religious traditions representing 13 world religions. Its educational programming and advocacy aim to promote inclusion, equity and justice for all. EquaSion’s flagship programs are the Cincinnati Festival of Faiths and A Mighty Stream: An Interfaith Community of Sacred Activists for Racial Justice.

Tammy bennett
Jan Armstrong Cobb
Tamie Sullivan


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