Black members of Mississippi’s Senate walked out of the chamber in protest Friday before a vote on a bill described as a prohibition on critical race theory on the state legislative calendar.
Senate Bill 2113 would forbid public schools in the state from forcing students to agree “that any sex, race, ethnicity, religion or national origin is inherently superior or inferior.”
The bill does not mention or define critical race theory. And it doesn’t ban educators from teaching any specific subject matter.
Critical race theory is a concept that seeks to understand and address inequality and racism in the US. The term also has become politicized and has been attacked by its critics as a Marxist ideology that’s a threat to the American way of life.
The bill passed in the Senate by 32-2 after the Black lawmakers walked out. Democratic state Sens. David Blount and Hob Bryan — both White — were the only two legislators to vote against the bill. It now heads to the state House.
The bill was debated for more than an hour, with several Black legislators asking Republican state Sen. Michael McLendon, who had introduced it, why the legislation was needed.
While McLendon conceded he had not heard from schools in Mississippi that students were being taught that they were inferior or superior, he said he had introduced the bill because his constituents had raised concerns about certain curricula they had heard were being taught across the country.
“I had so many constituents in my district that were concerned over the teachings that they have heard from around the country, they want to make sure that this was not a problem with Mississippi, so that’s why this bill was brought forward,” he said.
“So it’s a problem across the country; is it a problem in Mississippi?” asked state Senate Minority Leader Derrick Simmons.
“Well, we try to make laws for the future as well as today,” McLendon replied.
Democratic state Sen. David Jordan, who said he had worked as a teacher for 33 years — 20 of them in integrated schools, told McLendon the bill was not needed.
“This is not needed. It’s a waste of time, your time, and mine. I know there are people out there who got fear but as a good senator you can relay to them that there is no basis for it,” Jordan said, who would later give a fiery speech against the bill before walking out.
“It is sad that we have wasted so much time on something that’s not even necessary,” Jordan said during his remarks.
“We cannot continue to stumble into the future backward. That’s what this bill does. That’s why we don’t need it,” he added.