Trying to bury the reality of race needs to stop


What in the world is going on in Texas and Florida? When it comes to trying to bury and obfuscate issues of race, they have no peer or shame.

Just over a year ago, a group of educators proposed to the Texas Board of Education a new social studies standard for second graders that would describe slavery as “involuntary relocation.” No kidding. The proposal was part of a once-in-a-decade review of curriculum and came after Texas passed a law in 2021 to eliminate teaching critical race theory and other related subjects that might make students uncomfortable.

Fortunately, the state board rejected the ridiculous proposal, despite strict curbs imposed by Gov. Greg Abbott about how race is taught in Texas. There used to be a time when folks would be embarrassed to publicly raise such a nonsensical proposal. But this ahistorical approach to discussing race in education is just picking up steam.

As pockets across America continue their march to curb diversity efforts and how race is taught in schools and colleges, this turned out to be a banner week.

In the Lone Star State, Texas A&M University, which had mothballed its journalism program, found the perfect candidate to rejuvenate it as their new dean, only to subvert the effort when conservatives objected to her forceful advocacy on behalf of diversity, equity and inclusion in America’s newsrooms.

The imbroglio got so nasty that the candidate, Dr. Kathleen McElroy, a Black woman, rejected the offer she had already accepted and returned to her tenured position as a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin. Faculty, students, and alumni at A&M erupted in anger, culminating in the resignation of A&M’s President Katherine Banks. She announced Friday that she is leaving immediately after only being in the job for two years.

Earlier this week, Florida got its licks in too. The State Board of Education adopted a new standard for teaching African American history that says Black “slaves developed skills” that were a “personal benefit,” while in bondage. Teacher union representatives and others accused the board of “whitewashing” history. The change is part of the “anti-woke” crusade of Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose presidential campaign is struggling to gain traction for the Republican nomination.

This week’s broadsides come on the heels of the Supreme Court’s gutting of affirmative action in higher education, decreeing that race should not be a consideration in college admissions, except — interestingly — at the nation’s military academies where black and brown bodies are needed to fight our wars. Legacies and children of wealthy donors can also continue to receive preferences in admissions. Hmmmm.

Despite troubling aspects about how Harvard and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill were weighing race in admissions, the assault on diversity and race and how they are considered and discussed in education is harmful and dangerous.

A people that doesn’t understand its history cannot fully realize its potential.

It’s dangerous because these efforts are bound to sow greater division and further elevate race as an issue in our country. The fact is that this country was built on the backs of free Black labor and it is a debt that needs to be repaid — it can’t just be forgiven — or worse — papered over. Instead of delaying the day of racial reckoning in this country, we need to actively seek it.

Rather than confronting the sins of the slave trade and Jim Crow, the efforts by some to rewrite history are only exacerbating the situation. The fact that the issue is being politicized is disgusting. There is much to be admired about the way Germany has confronted the atrocities of the Nazi era, and how South Africa attempted to make amends with its Truth and Reconciliation Commission. America needs to take a page from those books in an effort to move forward.

Burying the truth about race in this country and accepting the fallacy that 50+ years of affirmative action makes up for the 400 years of terror and exploitation of the slave trade and Jim Crow, only kicks the can down the road. And it promotes continued ignorance for a new generation of Americans who will be even more angry when they learn the truth about who we are. It’s another squandered opportunity on our journey to create a more perfect — and inclusive — union.