Mississippi’s Black state senators walked out of a vote on Friday, protesting a Republican-backed bill that purports to ban “critical race theory” in schools.
All 14 Black state senators — all of whom are Democrats — withheld their votes when they walked out, and the bill passed 32-2. (Two white Democrats voted against the bill, The Associated Press reported).
While the bill is titled “critical race theory,” its text does not mention critical race theory at all.
Actual critical race theory is an academic discipline usually studied in graduate or law school that focuses on how racism is embedded in the country’s legal, political and social institutions.
The Mississippi bill’s language doesn’t actually change anything specific: It simply says that no school or education institution should teach students “that any sex, race, ethnicity… is inherently superior or inferior” or that “individuals should be adversely treated on the basis of their sex, race, ethnicity.”
The bill does not even include penalties for teaching the above, and its broad, vague language means it is unlikely to change what is taught in schools.
However, Democratic lawmakers expressed concern that it could stifle discussions of racism in class.
Teachers in states where laws that purportedly oppose “critical race theory” have passed told HuffPost that the vagueness of the laws’ language has left them unsure of what they can and can’t teach, which could stop some teachers, out of caution, from attempting to take on important subjects related to historic and ongoing racism in this country.
The bill now advances to the Mississippi House, which is also controlled by Republicans. If passed, it will go on to Republican Gov. Tate Reeves, who has vowed to keep “critical race theory” out of schools.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.