State lawmakers have moved to ban the teaching of critical race theory in Oklahoma schools.
The House sent House Bill 1775 to the governor Thursday on a 70–19 vote, with Lawton Rep. Daniel Pae the lone Republican against it.
Critical race theory pushes students to consider how racism is embedded into everyday life, but Rep. Kevin West (R-Moore), who refers to it as "Marxist ideology," suggested it’s used to tell white students they are racists because of their skin color and should feel guilt for past atrocities like slavery.
West then said the bill will protect students of color if "the pendulum swings the other way."
"I wouldn’t want anybody to be taught that because their ancestors were slaves, that they should be slaves," West said.
Rep. Regina Goodwin (D-Tulsa) called that argument "ridiculous" and told West that’s not what his bill says.
"Your whole concept, somehow that you’re trying to help Black folks not feel inferior, flies in the face of the very language. Would you agree that a white person, who we see as white, has brought this language, which really is trying to absolve white folks from feeling guilty and feeling discomforted by the heinous acts that have occurred yesterday and today. Would you agree that’s why you’re bringing that language?" Goodwin said.
"I would totally disagree with that," West said.
West claimed on the House floor he has received many emails and calls about schools in the state teaching lessons aimed at making students feel personally responsible for historical events. West, however, refused to identify any places that’s happening or even give further details on any incidents.
"We know that this is something that’s out there. So, we can disagree on whether or not it’s actually happening here, but the bottom line is, should we be teaching that simply because of your race or sex, you are automatically this? And I say no," West said.
HB1775 also bans mandatory gender or sexual diversity training for students in state colleges and universities. Rep. Andy Fugate (D-Del City) asked how that would affect peer-run courts that sentence students who commit certain offenses to sensitivity training.
"That’s not voluntary. It’s mandatory. Your bill prevents that. So, what do you suggest they do instead of recommending expulsion for those students?" Fugate said.
"Promulgate rules for us to approve," West said.
In response to another question, West said he had not consulted the Oklahoma State Department of Education or the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education about HB1775, but he added they had not approached him, either.
HB1775 dealt with emergency plans for school sports until earlier this month, when Senate Republicans changed it. If the governor signs it, it will take effect immediately.
Fugate asked for a ruling on the germaneness of the amendment Thursday before the House took up the bill. It was ruled the amendment was not germane, meaning the bill was ineligible to be heard, but Republican members voted to suspend House rules to hear the bill anyway.
HB1775 copies language from an executive order then-President Donald Trump issued last year to ban race and gender diversity training. Several civil rights groups sued, and the order was blocked in court. President Joe Biden rescinded it after taking office.