Jessica Szilagyi notes over on Facebook that state Senate Rules Committee Chairman Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga) has rolled out his legislative agenda for 2022. His agenda includes a ban on teaching “critical race theory” (CRT) in Georgia schools. This seems to be an answer in search of a problem because, as Jessica notes, there don’t appear to be any public schools in Georgia teaching CRT. That’s beside the point, though, as we’ll get into in this post.
Banning CRT has become something of a hot issue in the conservative movement, with several states either passing legislation to ban it or considering legislation to do so. Outside groups, too, are getting in on the act. Republicans also opposed any meaningful policing reform legislation, choosing to stand by law enforcement even when police officers are clearly wrong. Of course, that’s a separate policy matter. Coming on the heels of SB 202, which has been portrayed by Democrats as an attempt to deter people of color from voting, a proposed ban on the teaching of CRT probably isn’t politically smart, especially since there’s no real alternative being offered.
Granted, I don’t know a ton about CRT, but we should teach kids about racism, and it should be more than “slavery was bad” and the “Confederacy was wrong.” We should teach kids about the 1921 Tulsa massacre, the 1923 Rosewood massacre, lynching, segregation, and other stains in our history. We should also be mindful that there is a certain measure of privilege that comes from being white and that is harder for many people of color, particularly those who come from disadvantaged and underrepresented communities.
And this is also the problem for Republicans, who are seemingly doing everything they can do to avoid acknowledging that they have demographic problems in Georgia. According to new data from the Census Bureau, whites are now 50.1 percent of Georgia’s population, down from 55.9 percent in 2010. Black and Hispanics are now 41.1 percent of the state’s population. People of color now represent a majority of Metro Atlanta.
Back to the debate over SB 202 and CRT. The two most recent election cycles showed that Georgia is a battleground state. Republicans can’t take it for granted anymore. Rather than doing more to reach out to these communities, they’re playing to the delusions of the ex-President and the party’s conservative base. It really doesn’t make any sense. If you’re a Republican, the lights should be blinking red. Georgia has changed.
Republicans can talk about what policies are best to help people get ahead in life, but before they can be taken seriously by these communities, they need to acknowledge that it is harder for some people to achieve prosperity. The question is, is it too late to even make the case now? It was always going to be a years-long effort to reach out to Black and Hispanic communities in Georgia. Sure, Republicans performed a little better among Black and Hispanic voters in 2016 and 2020, but they have a long way to go to win over these voters. Wedge issues like “election security,” which is the buzzword these days, and this anti-CRT sentiment will only increase the divide that Republicans need to close with communities of color.