Black Lawmakers Walk Out in Protest as Mississippi Senate Votes on Critical Race Theory Bill

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Sen. Barbara Blackmon, D-Canton, speaks at the well in the Senate Chamber at the Mississippi State Capitol in Jackson, Miss., . Blackmon was among the Black lawmakers who walked out of the Senate Chamber in protest Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, and withheld their votes as the body passed a bill that would ban schools from teaching critical race theory Critical Race Theory Mississippi, Jackson, United States - 13 Jan 2022
Sen. Barbara Blackmon, D-Canton, speaks at the well in the Senate Chamber at the Mississippi State Capitol in Jackson, Miss., . Blackmon was among the Black lawmakers who walked out of the Senate Chamber in protest Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, and withheld their votes as the body passed a bill that would ban schools from teaching critical race theory Critical Race Theory Mississippi, Jackson, United States - 13 Jan 2022

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Mississippi's Black lawmakers are making their stance on critical race theory known.

Every Black member of the state Senate walked out in protest on Friday as their white colleagues voted on Senate Bill 2113, according to the Associated Press. The bill, which passed 32-2, would prohibit the teaching of critical race theory in public schools.

The two votes against the bill came from white Democrats David Blount and Hob Bryan, while some Republicans declined to vote. The legislation will next move to the state House.

"We walked out as a means to show a visible protest to these proceedings," Democratic Sen. John Horhn said, per Mississippi Today.

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Although the bill, which is titled "Critical Race Theory," failed to provide an accurate definition of the term, it says that no school, community college or university can teach that one "sex, race, ethnicity, religion or national origin is inherently superior or inferior."

Republican Sen. Michael McLendon, who introduced the bill, claimed that hundreds of his constituents reached out after hearing the topic of critical race theory in recent nationwide debates and said they didn't want it taught to their children.

Meanwhile, the state superintendent of education has said that the theory is not currently taught in Mississippi schools and no lawmakers have offered evidence to the contrary.

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Democratic Sen. Derrick Simmons said the bill is a "solution searching for a problem" and their votes would be a "waste of time," telling Mississippi Free Press: "I don't know what the real target is, but I'm afraid it will have a chilling effect on academic freedom. It serves as a censorship bill."

"It is sad we are wasting so much time on something that is not even needed," Democratic Sen. David Jordan added.

Although he struggled to define critical race theory when asked, McLendon argued, "Systematic racism should not be taught to our children." The theory, which is taught at the graduate level, examines how systemic racism has influenced institutions such as education, healthcare, and the legal system.

"This bill is not morally right," Democratic Sen. Barbara Blackmon said in her argument against the bill, urging her white colleagues to listen to the concerns of the 14 Black senators who walked out ahead of the vote.

Critical race theory has become a hot-button issue over the past year, as members of the GOP argue that it will teach white students that they are inferior to their minority peers.

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