We have officially reached the point in the critical race theory backlash where they’re now banning math textbooks.
The Florida Department of Education rejected 54 math textbooks — 28 of them because they “incorporate prohibited topics or unsolicited strategies, including [critical race theory]” — according to a DOE statement. Of course, Gov. Ron DeSantis endorsed this decision, claiming that the proposals from publishing companies contained lessons on “indoctrinating concepts like race essentialism” for elementary students.
On Twitter, a Ron DeSantis spokesperson shared a math assignment featuring Maya Angelou. Students were asked to solve algebra equations by substitution. Each corresponding answer was connected to potential truth regarding Ms. Angelou’s life. The spokesperson used this tweet to lambaste critical race theory.
But there’s nothing “critical race theory-esque” about that assignment.
The assignment was essentially introducing young people to who Maya Angelou was. That’s not critical race theory. Rather it’s an introduction to an African American who confronted racism through her art. So this move, in addition to others, is nothing more than white policymakers seeking to prevent Black people, Black history or the Black freedom struggle from being taught in school.
Since when has teaching Black history been a problem in schools?
Why all of a sudden are white policymakers, white parent “advocates,” against critical race theory, obsessed with preventing Black history from being taught in schools? The truth is that critical race theory is a legal theory and concept that is taught in graduate-level and legal classrooms, not in K-12 classrooms. But politicians, as well as ill-informed parents, will have you believe that it is taught in classrooms and promoted in textbooks.
The answer for why Black history is a problem is that policymakers use critical race theory as a bogeyman to prevent Black history from being taught — specifically, Black history in reference to the impact white supremacy and racism have had in the trajectory of the U.S. It’s not about Black history and teaching it being bad things, but rather, dangerous things.
Politicians have no problem teaching Black history when it’s about the first Black person to accomplish … or Black entertainers and athletes, or Black history starting with enslavement, or using Martin Luther King Jr. to espouse a colorblind ideology to placate white guilt while failing to challenge white political and economic power.
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But if you teach Black history in ways where you explain that the U.S.s is a white settler colonial project whereby white supremacy is the foundation for the political and economic norms (and trajectory) of the nation, whereby Africans were stolen and enslaved and Native people were displaced and murdered, it’s a problem to the white power structure.
Just the mention of people like Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, Amiri Baraka or Toni Morrison and others might make the white power structure nervous — not because those artists or activists are wrong, but because an educated populace may challenge their authority.
As you can see, Republicans against critical race theory thrive on an ignorant voter base to win elections and maintain power. So, expect more of this nonsense. Ron DeSantis and other policymakers and bureaucrats will intentionally outlaw more math books, along with science books, literature books or music books that mention anybody Black in them.
Don’t be surprised, just recognize what is happening — the indoctrination of willfully ignorant people in a consolidation of white power.
Rann Miller is the director of anti-bias and DEI initiatives as well as a high school social studies teacher for a school district located in Southern New Jersey. He’s also a freelance writer and founder of the Urban Education Mixtape, supporting urban educators and parents of students in urban schools. You can follow him on Twitter @UrbanEdDJ .