Stop Using MLK to Whitewash our History

As we honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. today, the words “I have a Dream” come to mind. But in 2022, with the current Texas political climate, it’s critical that we remember all of Dr. King’s teachings and that his “dream” included ending white supremacy by seeking systemic change.

A fact, many are quick to forget.

In the 87th Texas legislative session, Republican State Rep. Steve Toth authored a bill that would censor what teachers taught in their classrooms and order them to exclude material politicians believed “too controversial.” This includes highly subjective restrictions on discussions about the legacy of racism and discrimination in American history. Toth made an additional attack on our history by saying that the bill “echoes Dr. King’s wish that we should judge people on the content of their character, not [the color of] their skin.” Now, I never knew him, but I’m sure that Dr. King’s dream didn’t include banning the history of racism from our classrooms.

Let’s take a minute here to think about what’s happening. While we still mark a day on our calendar to celebrate the teachings of Dr. King, Republican-led legislatures are quickly taking the steps to erase what he stood for and our history. NBC News recently reported that “At least nine states in mostly Republican areas have passed bills barring educators from teaching about racism in the classroom, and many parents and school boards in these states are doubling down on removing books that tell the stories of LGBTQ people and communities of color from local and school libraries.”

As progressive Texans, we know that Dr. King stood up to racism and pushed to change our country for the better. We believe our children deserve an honest and accurate education that enables them to learn from the mistakes of our past to help create a better future, and we definitely don’t want politicians to whitewash parts of our history so they can control a political narrative.

That’s why as we start our new year, we pledge to take MLK’s teachings to heart and ensure that our students learn accurate history – the good and the bad – so that we may create a better tomorrow. As the Texas State Board of Education meets this year to decide on the social studies requirements for students, we’ll remind them of the need to teach the truth in our classrooms.

As King best put it, “Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.

“The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals.”

TFN and its partners are defending our neighborhood public schools and fighting back against censorship. Join us in this campaign to #TeachTheTruth in our schools.