Arizona State Senate votes to ban Critical Race Theory education for public employees

Critical Race Theory is a form of racial sensitivity training that has been thrust to prominence following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police officers just over one year ago. 

The theory is intended, argue its proponents, to educate people on the disparities faced by minorities, specifically Black Americans, in the United States. These disparities, say these supporters, are rooted in systemic racism — which has been defined in a wide variety of ways by activists and academics.

Opponents and skeptics posit that Critical Race Theory is, ironically, rooted in racism and prejudice itself. Greg Ganske, a columnist at the Des Moines Register, argues that “Rather than accepting a class-based dialectic of Marxists, CRT substitutes race for class in order to create a revolutionary coalition based on racial and ethnic categories.” Further, says Ganske, “CRT reinforces group stereotypes, shames meaningful dialogue, and worsens race relations.”

Several states have adopted this type of training in their schools and for employees of the state, and there are currently about 15 states that have or are in the process of banning the teaching of Critical race theory in schools and to public employees. 

Arizona Legislature moves to ban CRT

The Arizona State Legislature is now aiming to have Arizona join other states that are in the process of banning CRT education for public employees. The State House and Senate passed SB 1074, which bans the Critical Race Theory from being taught to public employees. The State Senate voted along party lines, in a 16-14 vote, to pass the ban. 

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey vetoed SB 1074, but not because he disagreed with its contents, necessarily. His veto was part of a veto of all 22 bills that reached his desk, as part of a negotiation over the Legislature’s stall in passing a budget. Ducey released the following statement: “This weekend marks one month until the end of the fiscal year, and Arizonans are counting on us to work together and pass a budget that provides certainty for taxpayers and citizens. Until that happens, I do not intend on signing any additional bills transmitted by the Legislature.”

Democratic Senator Martin Quezada was disappointed with the passing of the bill, mentioning that “this is about having tough conversations about race”, and that the passing of this bill was “a step backwards.”

Republican Senators are happy with the outcome of the vote on SB 1074. Sen. Jake Hoffman said that “America is not racist,” and that “we have been stomping out racism since the Civil War.” 

Sen. Kelly Townsend said that people shouldn’t be blamed or judged for the color of their skin and that CRT training teaches white people that they are inherently racist by virtue of being white.

National debate

Other states that have banned or are in the process of banning CRT include Idaho, Texas, Florida, Missouri, and several others. These states have set their focus on banning this education in schools, while Arizona’s focus in SB 1074 was to eliminate CRT education for public employees. They may target the education system next, in order to eliminate this education for students.

More Republican-led states are likely to start passing legislation banning CRT education, while others like California and New York will continue to pass legislation in order to provide this education to their public employees and students. The theory has become a partisan issue over the last year and will continue to be up for debate through the 2022 election cycle.

Michael O’Connor is the chief political correspondent for the Western Tribune.

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