As we celebrate our precious freedom, it’s important that we use it to look honestly at American history—much of it good, but some of it immoral and horrific. That includes the enslavement of Africans and their descendants and the systemic racism against black people that persists today.
Yet Republican lawmakers around the country are calling for laws to limit what students can be taught about American history and society. The measures, some of which have already become law, mandate a distorted and whitewashed view of America.
Florida now bars the teaching of critical race theory, which it defines as “the theory that racism is not merely the product of prejudice, but that racism is embedded in American society and its legal systems to uphold the supremacy of white persons.” Several states have enacted similar laws barring or restricting lessons about racism, sexism and other forms or prejudice, and many more are considering such legislation. Republicans in Congress have proposed bills to block federal funding for public schools that use the New York Times ’s “1619 Project” as a teaching tool.
Politicians shouldn’t rewrite history or tell teachers what to teach. Many of the same Republican politicians and right-wing media figures complaining about “cancel culture” erasing Mr. Potato Head and Dr. Seuss want to “cancel” the horrors of slavery and racism.
My great-grandparents were enslaved, and my grandparents and parents lived under racist Jim Crow laws. I wasn’t raised to hate white people or America. I love America, and I’m grateful for the white brothers and sisters who fought alongside African-Americans in the past and continue to do so today to make real the promise of the Declaration of Independence: