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Governor Kay Ivey says Critical Race Theory unwelcome, 'doesn't belong in Alabama schools'

Updated: Oct 29, 2021

Conservative Alabama governor Kay Ivey is continuing her quest against Critical Race Theory (CRT), and despite the state's recent adoption of policies against it, the two-term official is doing her best to ensure that CRT is never taught in Alabama schools.

Ivey's oppositional voice is part of a growing chorus of Republican officials and operatives in the state and nationwide who denounce CRT.

Critical Race Theory is an educational framework that examines the social, cultural, and legal implications of race within American institutions, especially the U.S. judicial system. More specifically, CRT examines and dissects the idea that the country's law and legal system are inherently just and neutral. It is important to note that CRT is most often part of the curricula at American law schools; the framework is rarely taught at the primary or secondary levels of education.

Earlier this month, Governor Ivey's campaign sent out an email asking supporters to join her in pushing back against what she called "the radical left's Critical Race Theory" by signing a petition to ban the teaching of the framework in Alabama's schools.

"I just don’t believe that America is a racist nation, and I won’t force that divisive message on our kids," said Ivey.

Although Critical Race Theory has never been taught in Alabama's K-12 schools, that has not stopped the governor and the state's school board from attempting stifle any serious examination of race-related issues in the Heart of Dixie. According to the governor's email, her office "led the charge" in helping the Alabama State Board of Education officially ban the teaching of CRT in the state's 1,637 public schools—the board passed the resolution in August. Ivey's plea to supporters also warned against, "indoctrinating our children with Critical Race Theory," saying instead that, "we need to be focusing on teaching our children how to read and write."

Much of the pushback against CRT is rooted in the idea that white students are being made to feel guilty about historic and current instances of racial oppression. Many GOP lawmakers have adopted that narrative.

Alabama legislator, Rep. Chris Pringle, R-Mobile, has already filed anti-CRT legislation for the upcoming 2022 legislative session in hopes of preventing the state's students from being trained in "divisive concepts," such as those which suggest "that an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”

Pringle and Ivey are not alone. In fact, Republican lawmakers in more than 20 states have already introduced or passed legislation that targets critical race theory, effectively banning schools and teachers from engaging in thoughtful analysis and discussion of how race and racism impact America and Americans.

State Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, an educator, high school basketball coach, and member of the Senate’s Education Policy Committee, has levied pushback of his own. According to Smitherman, slavery and the oppression of Black people are significant parts of Alabama's history.

“Good, bad or indifferent, history is what it is,” Smitherman said. “It is time for us to face up to and have genuine, bipartisan conversations about our history.”

In mid-June, at the Faith and Freedom Coalition, former Vice President Mike Pence spoke strongly against CRT, saying, “critical race theory is racism.” Senator Ted Cruz, at the same gathering, compared the theory to racial terrorism and called CRT-based curricula “every bit as racist” as the Ku Klux Klan. “Critical race theory,” the senator charged, “says every white person is a racist.”

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp recently wrote in a letter to his state education board members that they should “take immediate steps to ensure that critical race theory and its dangerous ideology do not take root in our state standards or curriculum,” the AP reported.

In May, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall joined 19 other attorneys general in urging the Biden administration to reconsider educational proposals that included critical race theory or “other divisive, intellectually bankrupt political projects" to American classrooms. The letter from the attorneys general also took aim at the New York Times’ 1619 Project, an award-winning study of the ways the nation has been impacted by slavery.

Ultimately, the fate of Critical Race Theory in Alabama and other red states remains to be seen. No matter the case, the current campaigns against CRT illustrate both an ignorance of what Critical Race Theory is and how it is applied, as well as a reactionary response to it, rather than an attempt at broader understanding. As the debate continues, perhaps the conversation surrounding CRT will move away from politicized opposition and toward reasoned consideration.



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