Georgia’s education board on Thursday approved a resolution that says the U.S. and Georgia are not racist and students should not be taught that racism or slavery are anything but deviations from the country’s “authentic founding principles.”
The measure — approved by an 11-2 vote — was introduced amid a national reckoning with race that has prompted legislatures in Republican-controlled states across the country to try to define what race-related ideas can be taught in public schools and colleges. It also came on the heels of a letter the Georgia governor — who appoints the board members — sent last month encouraging them to take such action.
The resolution is symbolic and does not impose restrictions on school districts or teachers, though it could lead to binding rules in the future.
Additional provisions the board endorsed say teachers should not “inculcate” the idea that people’s race makes them inherently oppressive, either consciously or unconsciously, or responsible for past actions by other members of the same race. It also says instructors should not be forced to teach “currently controversial issues of public policy or social affairs.”
Board member Kenneth Mason, who is Black, said the resolution encouraged people to be silent about any racism they’ve experienced.
“The statement when I read it made me feel like I didn’t belong because it excused the existence of racism in my life, in my children’s life,” he said.
Helen Rice, another board member, said the goal was not to divide people by race, but encourage teachers to give students facts and not indoctrinate them.
“We’re not excluding anyone,” she said.
In his letter last month, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp urged the board “to take immediate steps to ensure that Critical Race Theory and its dangerous ideology do not take root in our state standards or curriculum.”
Critical race theory seeks to highlight how historical inequities and racism continue to shape public policy and social conditions today. Republicans say that it promotes a distorted view of American history and vilifies white Americans.
There is little evidence that the theory is currently being taught to any of Georgia’s 1.7 million public school students.