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Black parents fight against ‘whitewashed history’

The Round Rock Black Parents Association is pushing back against Texas’ attempt to restrict the teaching of Black history.

A hundreds-strong group of Black mothers in one Texas school district is pushing back against that state’s attempt to dilute the teaching of Black history in its curriculum.

In one effort, the Round Rock Black Parents Association is fighting to keep Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibrahim X. Kendi on school bookshelves, according to NBC News. 

The Round Rock Black Parents Association, this group of Black mothers in one Texas school district, is pushing back against its attempts to eliminate Black history teachings. (Photo: Screenshot/www.roundrockblackparents.org)

The book is a young adult version of Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, which won a national book award for nonfiction work in 2016. 

“Taking away that book would have completely whitewashed history, and that’s not what we are for,” one of the moms, 33-year-old Ashley Walker, told NBC. 

The book remained on school shelves but is still one of the most challenged books in schools since 2020, when Critical Race Theory entered the mainstream consciousness. 

The theory, which is commonly taught in colleges and law schools, posits that systemic racism is ingrained in United States’ institutions due to the nation’s long legacy of enslavement.

According to Education Week, 36 states have introduced bills or taken other steps that would restrict teaching critical race theory or limit how teachers can discuss racism and sexism, according to an EW analysis. Fourteen states have imposed these bans and restrictions either through legislation or other avenues since January 2021. 

Walker contends that the fight is not so much about CRT, but “it’s about kids’ experiences,” she said. “It’s about Black boy joy or Black girl magic, yet, we’re being told it is about critical race theory — just because our kids need to see themselves in these books.”

“Taking away that book would have completely whitewashed history, and that’s not what we are for,” Ashley Walker, 33, one of more than 400 members of the Round Rock Black Parents Association, said. (3/5) pic.twitter.com/EU4zIF2RqW

— NBCBLK (@NBCBLK) January 28, 2022

In the state of Texas, Governor Greg Abbott passed a restrictive bill in June 2021 on how race can be taught in schools. The bill also includes a list of founding documents that students must be taught and compels students to discuss “both sides” of current event issues. Further, it prohibits students from getting credit or extra credit for participating in civic activities that include political activism or lobbying elected officials on a particular issue, and also bans the teaching of The New York Times’ 1619 Project, per the Texas Tribune

Walker says the bill has resulted in “having to deal with everybody criticizing every single book you can think of.”

The NBC News report has a sliver of good news: Nora Pelizzari of the National Coalition Against Censorship says that a majority of books challenged on a local level are liked among school districts and stay shelved. “Book review policies when they’re well written solicit the input and the decision of a diverse group of stakeholders and encourage the review process to focus on educational value … as opposed to … reading a particularly explicit passage out loud in a school board meeting,” Pelizzari said.

However, she noted that these challenges are still difficult in non-Black communities. One white parent of biracial children, who was not identified but is an advocate for the Round Rock Black Parents Association, said, “Racial equity should not be a trigger word for anybody, but it is, and more often than not, for white parents, it’s a trigger word because that equates to calling them and their children racist.”

Black parents have argued that while not teaching some aspects of American history keeps white kids from “feeling bad,” not teaching it makes Black kids “feel bad.” 

“School districts have a responsibility to ensure that they are providing an inclusive environment for all students,” said Cara McClellan of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “In districts where students are already experiencing hostility based on race, or LGBT status, or religion … schools are now taking away materials that we know could be a buffer against hostility.”

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