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Hundreds, soon to be thousands, of teachers, scholars, parents, and students signed a statement denouncing House Bill 3979, passed by the Republican legislature and signed into law by Governor Gregg Abbott. It bans honest and accurate teaching about racism in American history or other courses.
Statement on Texas House Bill 3979
We are a collective of teachers, professors, community workers, parents, and students across Texas who are committed to teaching the histories of race, racism, slavery, and settler colonialism. We strongly oppose the new law signed by Governor Greg Abbott that prohibits educators from teaching about the history and social impacts of systemic racism in the U.S.
Silencing the discussion of any aspect of these histories in our classrooms goes against the professed values of freedom and equality offered to everyone under the United States Constitution.
We stand firmly in solidarity with freedom in education for students and with protecting academic freedom, which is fundamental to any society that believes in equity. Texas House Bill 3979 is a blatant attempt at political and governmental overreach. It was not written in consultation with teachers and students and is an authoritarian directive that interferes with education from a partisan viewpoint.
We cannot understand our present without understanding our past. Knowing the truth of the origins of the U.S. nation-state requires acknowledging the full truths of settler colonialism that took land from Indigenous peoples, forcibly displaced them, and decimated their populations. It also requires understanding the full facts about the transatlantic slave trade that brought Africans in bondage across the Middle Passage to lives of enslavement. The wealth of the U.S. was created by the enslaved labor of millions of Black people who were never paid for their work and who lived their lives in unfreedom. We are still living with the visible consequences of this tragic and violent past. Teaching systemic racism allows us to see how housing, health outcomes, access to education, wealth, clean water and air, all of these aspects of life that are fundamental to freedom and happiness remain severely curtailed along racial lines.
HB 3979 means that teachers cannot safely teach, for example, the facts of Juneteenth, a key event in Texas history which has just been declared a national holiday; the facts of Jim Crow laws that legalized racial segregation; the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882; the facts of the forced removal of Indigenous peoples from their lands; Executive Order 9066, which led to the internment of tens of thousands of US citizens of Japanese descent; and the present-day facts of racialized inequities in the U.S. All of these and many more aspects of U.S. history must be part of students’ education if we are to learn from the past.
These historical facts are not a threat to anyone who believes in justice and equity. Learning about these histories is difficult and can be uncomfortable, but failing to deliver fairness and equal opportunities for all children is not merely uncomfortable: it is damaging to everyone and perpetuates the traumas and inequities of the past into the future. Knowing the truths of slavery and colonialism is not divisive: it will give us all the understanding needed to abolish systemic inequities and to bring us together. Armed with knowledge and truth, we can all work in community for a better future.
Learning the truth about the past, especially about how their communities have been affected by racism, helps students to understand the world around them, to value the contributions of their own multicultural, diverse society, and to acquire the racial literacy needed to navigate professional, academic, and civic spaces. Students want to develop this understanding and gain this knowledge, and they need this education in order to succeed in our multiracial society that should ideally respect all communities equally.
We recognize that the current legislation in Texas was mobilized by well-funded and highly influential political forces that seek to erase the work of scholars who study the impact of racism in U.S. history. These organizations perpetuate the false narrative that racism was not a foundational aspect of this state’s history.
We stand in full solidarity with Texas teachers who teach the truth about U.S. History and who encourage students to seek justice, equality, and freedom, especially for communities that continue to experie