Black lawmakers walked out of the Mississippi Senate chambers on Friday, January 21, and withheld their votes as the state’s senate passed a bill that would ban schools from teaching critical race theory.
The state superintendent of education has said CRT is not being taught in Mississippi schools and legislators have offered no evidence to show it is.
According to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, critical race theory centers around the idea that racism is systemic in American institutions and that they function to maintain the dominance of white people in society. It is typically only taught at universities, in upper and level and graduate courses.
According to NPR, Mississippi Republicans claimed the theory teaches “victimhood,” while Democrats say the ban could hide any discussion of Mississippi’s racist history.
"This bill is not morally right," Democratic Sen. Barbara Blackmon of Canton, who is Black, said during the debate, NPR reports.
Republican Sen. Michael McLendon of Hernando, who is white, struggled to define critical race theory when asked about it but noted that “systematic racism should not be taught to our children."
Like most anti-CRT measures around the country, Mississippi's bill does not define what Critical Race Theory is, but rather states that no school, community college or university could teach that any "sex, race, ethnicity, religion or national origin is inherently superior or inferior."
Black senators walked out of the senate chamber prior to the vote on the bill, which passed 32-2. The only votes against it came from white Democrats. The bill will move to the House for more work.