by Emily Wagster Pettus, Associated Press
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed a bill Monday to limit how race can be discussed in classrooms, and it became law immediately.
“Contrary to what some critics may claim, this bill in no way, in no shape and in no form prohibits the teaching of history,” Republican Reeves said in a video posted on social media. “Any claim that this bill will somehow stop Mississippi kids from learning about American history is just flat-out wrong.”
The short title of Senate Bill 2113 says it would prohibit “critical race theory.” But the main text of the legislation does not mention or define the theory, and many supporters of the bill also have said they cannot define it.
The new law says no school, community college or university could teach that any “sex, race, ethnicity, religion or national origin is inherently superior or inferior.”
The ACLU of Mississippi said in a statement that laws opposing critical race theory “are thinly veiled attempts to silence discussions of race and gender amongst student and educators.”
The Republican-controlled House voted 75-43 to pass the bill March 3 after a six-hour debate in which several Black lawmakers gave impassioned speeches in opposition. They said the legislation could squelch honest discussion about the harmful effects of racism because parents could complain if history lessons make white children uncomfortable.
When the bill passed the Republican-controlled Senate in January, all of the Black senators withheld their votes and walked out in protest.
Republicans across the country have been raising money by saying critical race theory is a threat and multiple Republican-led states have banned or limited the teaching of critical race theory or similar concepts through laws or administrative actions.
Critical race theory is an academic framework that examines how racism has shaped public policy and institutions such as the legal system, and how those have perpetuated the dominance of white people in society.
Mississippi Superintendent of Education Carey Wright said critical race theory is not taught in the state’s schools. The University of Mississippi law school offers an elective class on the theory.
Mississippi has the highest percentage of Black residents of any state — about 38%. Along with other states in the Deep South, including neighboring Alabama, it was a crucible of the civil rights movement.