116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Our red-state, trailblazing governor claimed yet another cookie-cutter national culture war trophy this week.
Gov. Kim Reynolds signed House File 802, which will place restrictions on how schools and governmental entities handle diversity training and curriculum addressing racism. She contends the new law will target “critical race theory,” a once obscure academic discipline that has been elevated to a grave threat by Republicans who use it to label any discussion of slavery, race or racism that makes them uncomfortable.
Literally, the bill outlaws discomfort.
It bans the teaching of divisive concepts, including ideas that make anyone “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress,” due to their race or sex.
Who, exactly, did the overwhelmingly white GOP caucus have in mind?
“Critical Race Theory is about labels and stereotypes, not education. It teaches kids that we should judge others based on race, gender or sexual identity, rather than the content of someone’s character,” Reynolds said in a statement.
To prove just how much character really counts, not long after signing the bill, the governor touted her action in a fundraising appeal.
“With the stroke of a pen, the governor showed us the true content of her character. She would rather pander to the prejudice within her own party, than further an important conversation about the very real institutionalized racism Black and Brown Iowans face every day,” said Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn in a statement, noting we just marked the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre, an event whitewashed from our history for decades.
As usual, Iowa is just one among several red states attempting to micromanage diversity training and the teaching of history. They are, of course, following the lead of Team Trump, presented by white supremacy, which issued an executive order banning divisive concepts from training in all federally funded entities.
GOP backers of the bill insist it will not ban classroom discussions of these concepts. But the strident partisan push behind bills like this sends a different message. Teachers had better be careful if they wade into a discussion of the historic and systemic racism that has plagued America and its institutions.
Be very careful.
“Over the summer, we will be checking our county schools to see if any of them are teaching or espousing Critical Race Theory or the 1619 Project,” Fayette County Republican Chair Rick Hofmeyer wrote on the party’s Facebook page last month. “If anyone is, we will need everyone’s participation to clear this garbage out of our schools.”
Actually, the only garbage I detect comes from a party that waves flags — U.S. and Confederate — loudly proclaims American exceptionalism but is too frightened to face the hard truths in our history. They want to muzzle educators and wrap our kids in a comforting blanket of myths. This is the stuff of authoritarian regimes, not a democracy. These folks don’t think much of democracy, either.
Legislative Republicans deny the existence of systemic racism, but then use the Statehouse power structure to pass a law limiting how we address issues of race. Too bad they didn’t ban chronic cluelessness theory.
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