Branding the idea as “divisive,” Republican Oklahoma state Sen. Shane Jett is pushing to ban critical race theory from being taught in public schools.
"Instead of teaching equality and harmony and celebrating our progress in American history, this experiment in freedom, they are instead telling children to forget that. The very foundation of the American government is flawed, is racist. And if you're white, you are by definition a racist and you don't even know it. And if you're a person of color, then you are oppressed and you've been victimized. And it's by the other side of the classroom who are white, they have done it and their ancestors," Jett said of proponents of critical race theory in a recent interview with Blaze media.
Critical race theory is a framework through which some scholars seek to understand how victims of systemic racism are affected by cultural perceptions of race and how they are able to represent themselves to counter prejudice. Scholarship on the theory traces racism in America through the legacy of slavery, the civil rights movement and recent events.
Jett is hoping to ban CRT in Oklahoma public schools with his Senate Bill 803, which has yet to get a hearing in the Senate Education Committee, because he believes critical race theory is “literally teaching animosity."
"The bill basically says you can no longer do this. You cannot abuse public school kids at taxpayers' expense and try to get them to distrust each other, distrust American history, and then completely rewrite our history," he said.
Critical race theory has been a major issue of contention in the evangelical and political arena in recent years.
Last September, former President Donald Trump banned the idea from being taught at federal agencies after calling it “offensive and anti-American,” but President Joe Biden reversed the move last month.
The theory has also split churches along racial lines in the Southern Baptist Convention — the nation’s largest Protestant denomination — prompting an exodus of some high-profile black congregations from the SBC in recent months.
While admitting that the theory is not in-line with SBC doctrine, SBC President J.D. Greear recently noted that the debate around CRT is an “important discussion” that has revealed the need for a deeper reckoning on race in the church.
“Let me state this very clearly, as clearly as I can, critical race theory is an important discussion and I am all for, as I hope you would be, robust theological discussion about it. For something as important as what biblical justice looks like in the world today, we need careful, robust, Bibles open, on our knees discussion. But we should mourn when closet racists and neo confederates feel more at home in our churches than do many of our people of color,” Greear said.
Shannon Fleck, executive director of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches who found Jett’s bill offensive, told Oklahoma News 4 that: “Every single second for our black, indigenous people of color in our state and nation is about race; race is an active issue.”
“It’s offensive to all people in Oklahoma that conversations about racism are so divisive that they shouldn’t be happening. That’s the opposite of how to solve problems in our country and in our state,” Fleck asserted.