5 States Where Republicans Are Making Moves To Turn The Nation Backward

From diversity programs to criminal justice reforms, right-wing extremists in the GOP are attacking hard-earned civil rights advancements.

Conservatives are flexing their political muscles in a way that turns the clock back on the Black community’s hard-fought advances and it has become a political and social threat.

Republican-controlled legislatures in several red states are crafting legislation based on extremist views. This movement has manifested itself in book bannings and limiting what educators can teach to usurping election authority from cities and rolling back advances in racial diversity.

Demonstrators take part in the Hands Off DC march from Union Station on March 08, 2023 in Washington, DC.

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At its core is the White supremacist movement that went underground after the dismantling of Jim Crow and following the major gains of the Civil Rights era, according to the National Urban League’s 2023 State of Black America report. Far-right extremists have infiltrated law enforcement, the political system and even classrooms – cloaked in a demand for parental rights – where they advocate for the reversal of advancements Black Americans achieved.

Here are five states where GOP-dominated legislatures are trying to erase the African American community’s gains.

Alabama: Critical Race Theory (CRT)

In April, Alabama’s Republican Gov. Kay Ivey ousted the state’s director of early childhood education Barbara Cooper over the use of a teacher training book that Ivey condemned for allegedly including language about structural racism, the Associated Press reported.

“Let me be crystal clear: Woke concepts that have zero to do with a proper education and that are divisive at the core have no place in Alabama classrooms at any age level, let alone with our youngest learners,” Ivey said in a statement.

Ivey’s office cited a section of the book, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Developmentally Appropriate Practice Book, 4th edition, that they said discusses white privilege as a foundational principle built into systems in this country. They also complained about a section that address LGBTQ+ inclusion. But the AP’s review of the book found that those sections discuss address bias.

Ivey’s removal of Cooper and the teacher training book can be seen as part of a wider movement in red states to ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT), a college-level academic framework to analyze systemic racism that’s not taught in primary and secondary schools. This policy is widely viewed as a GOP misinformation campaign to stir up its political base for elections.

In August 2021, the Alabama State Board of Education voted to ban the teaching of CRT principles in K-12 classrooms. The vote was split along racial and party lines, with White Republicans voting to approve the ban and the two Black Democrats on the board opposing it.

Alabama Governor Forces Out State Early Education Secretary Over Use Of Book That Deals With Race

Florida: Diversity Ban

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law on May 15 to defund programs that promote diversity in public higher education. Under the law, public colleges in Florida can no longer spend state or federal funds on DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) initiatives, including helping schools increase student and faculty racial, ethnic, gender and sexual orientation diversity. It doesn’t stop there. The law also prohibits the schools from offering courses that “distort significant historical events” or teach theories about systemic racism and identity politics.

DeSantis, a 2024 presidential candidate, has emerged as a main architect of crafting legislation based on the far-right’s agenda. He also pushed legislation dubbed the Stop W.O.K.E. Act – the acronym standing for "Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees" – that is also known as the Individual Freedom Act. It would restrict how race is discussed in state schools, including universities, and in companies.

Mississippi: Criminal Justice System Takeover

Mississippi’s GOP Gov. Tate Reeves signed controversial bills S.B. 2343 and H.B. 1020 into law in April. The measures expand the state’s law enforcement jurisdiction and implement changes to the judicial system in the capital city, which is about 80 percent Black and majority Democrat. Reeves has said the laws are needed to stem violent crime.

Mississippi Today aptly summarized the situation with its headline: ‘Only in Mississippi’: White representatives vote to create White-appointed court system for Blackest city in America.

In response to the state’s takeover of Jackson’s criminal justice system, the NAACP filed a federal lawsuit to challenge the laws, arguing that measures attack the city’s democratic rights.

"As our country continues to face the reality and consequences of our broken law enforcement and criminal justice systems, passing legislation to increase policing, install undemocratically appointed judges, and infringe on the constitutional right to protest is simultaneously irresponsible and dangerous,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in a statement.

NAACP Sues Mississippi Over New ‘Irresponsible And Dangerous’ Criminal Justice Laws

Virginia: Book Censorship

Virginia’s Spotsylvania County Public Schools made national headlines in March when Superintendent Mark Taylor sent a memo directing the county’s director and assistant director of teaching and leaning to remove 14 titles from school libraries, including Toni Morrison’s Beloved and The Bluest Eye.

In his memo, Taylor stated that the books violate a state law that GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed in 2022, which requires school districts to establish parental notification policies for instructional materials with sexually explicit materials.

But free speech advocates say that what’s really behind the wave of book bannings is an attempt by conservative groups to silence books about the Black experience and LGBTQ issues.

“Falsely claiming that these works are subversive, immoral, or worse, these groups induce elected and non-elected officials to abandon constitutional principles, ignore the rule of law, and disregard individual rights to promote government censorship of library collections,” an American Library Association statement says.

According to The New York Times, “a rapidly growing and increasingly influential constellation of conservative groups” is behind the wave of book challenges. These groups are working at multiple levels – from school districts to state capitals and in Congress – to ban certain books. They justify the book banning as an attempt to defend parental rights. The organizations are increasingly interconnected, well funded and politically influential.

Texas: Elections Takeover

Texas Republicans are poised to reclaim political control of heavily Democratic Harris County, which includes Houston. But the takeover stems not from winning county elections but from passing legislation that awaits Gov. Greg Abbott’s signature.

A pair of voting bills (SB 1750 and SB 1933) recently passed in the GOP-controlled state legislature and now sit on Abbott’s desk. Once he signs them, which is expected, these targeted measures will position state Republicans to eliminate Harris County’s chief election official and grant authority to the GOP secretary of state to oversee elections in Texas’ largest county.

Republican state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, the main sponsor of the bills, has argued that the new election laws targeting Harris County would fix recurring problems in last year’s primary and general elections.

But opponents say there’s a different motive behind the measures.

“It essentially takes us back to the 1940s and 50s, to the Jim Crow era. It’s an act of intimidation,” Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis, a Houston Democrat, told, adding that Republicans are “simply obsessed with attacking this county” and the voting rights of its residents.

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