Americans Can and Must Fight Back Against Anti-Woke AuthoritariansRoundup
tags: conservatism, culture war, critical race theory, Woke
Khalil Gibran Muhammad is the Ford Foundation Professor of History, Race and Public Policy, an organizer of the Freedom to Learn movement and co-host of the Some of My Best Friends Are podcast.
Americans are losing the freedom to learn. Several states across the country have imposed bans on books, K-12 educational curricula and diversity programs in recent months. In fact, every state but one has at least attempted to restrict the right to literacy and the free exchange of ideas, according to a recent report by the Critical Race Studies program at the UCLA School of Law. And even where statewide bans are not in place, restrictive measures are being enacted by local school boards.
Such measures undermine a healthy and functioning democracy, instilling a climate of fear and self-censorship by teachers, librarians and many university faculty members. The mere mention of structural racism or gender discrimination or sexuality can potentially cost educators and librarians their jobs. Meanwhile, laws against gender-affirming healthcare and anti-trans policies in school bathrooms, locker rooms and playing fields are putting the lives of trans youths at risk.
Until just a few days ago, I did not have reason to believe that a significant number of Americans were willing to push back against these attacks on education. But for the first time, a national movement is beginning to defend the freedom to learn in the United States – and it gives me hope that we can reverse the discrimination and authoritarianism infiltrating our schools.
Last week, thousands of people in nearly 30 states turned out on college campuses and in public libraries, in Zoom and on social media for a National Day of Action. The May 3 event brought together people from all walks of life – teachers, professors, librarians, artists, students, civil rights leaders, LGBTQ+ advocates and many others – who affirmed the right to speak, write, read, teach and learn the truth about the nation we live in.
The beginnings of this national movement to defend the freedom to learn is rekindling relationships between college students and civil rights activists and inspiring new ones between college faculty and K-12 teachers and librarians. To protect all educators, for example, the American Federation of Teachers set up a Freedom to Learn and Teach hotline to report political interference and censorship.