WASHINGTON (AP) — The extreme views of some local, state and federal political leaders who are trying to limit the history that can be taught in schools and seeking to undermine how black officials do their jobs are among the main threats to democracy for black Americans. says the National Urban League.
Marc Morial, the former New Orleans mayor who leads a civil rights and urban advocacy organization, cited the latest example: the vote this month by the Republican-controlled Tennessee House to oust two black representatives for violating a legislative rule. The couple had taken part in a gun control protest inside the room after the shooting that killed three students and three staff members at the Nashville school.
“We’ve had censorship and suppression of black history, and now this,” Morial said in an interview. “It’s another piece of fruit from the same poisonous tree, trying to suppress and contain it.”
Both Tennessee legislators were quickly reinstated by leaders in their county, returning to work in the House after an uproar spread out of the state.
The Urban League’s annual State of Black America report released Saturday is based on data and surveys from a number of organizations, including the University of California Law School, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. The collective findings reveal an increase in hate crimes in recent years and efforts to change school curricula, attempts to make voting more difficult and normalize extremist views in politics, the military and law enforcement.
One of the most prominent areas examined is the so-called cash race theory. Scholars developed it as an academic framework during the 1970s and 1980s in response to what they saw as a lack of racial progress following civil rights legislation in the 1960s. The theory centers on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions and that it works to maintain white dominance in society.
The Forward Tracking Project, which is part of the UCLA School of Law, was started by Taifha Alexander, the director, in response to the backlash that followed protests over the killing of George Floyd in 2020 and an executive order that year from then-President Donald Trump restricting diversity training.
The project’s website shows that 209 local, state, and federal government agencies have submitted more than 670 bills, resolutions, executive orders, opinion letters, statements, and other actions against the critical race theory since September 2020.
The anti-critical race theory is “a living being in itself. It is always evolving. There are always new targets to attack,” Alexander said.
She said the expanded scope of some of these laws, which have a chilling effect on teaching certain aspects of the country’s ethnic conflicts, will lead to significant gaps in understanding of history and social justice.
“This campaign against the CRT will thwart our ability to reach our full potential as a multiracial democracy,” Alexander said, “because future leaders will lose information they can use to address the problems.”
One example, she said, was rewriting Florida elementary school material about civil rights figure Rosa Parks and her refusal to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955 — an incident that led to the bus boycott there. The mention of race was omitted entirely in one review, a change first reported by The New York Times.
Florida has been the center of many moves, including opposition to AP African American Studies, but it’s not alone.
“Things that were happening in Florida have been repeated, or state governors in the same situation have claimed they would do the same thing,” Alexander said.
In Alabama, a motion to ban “divisive” concepts passed the legislature last week. Last year, the administration of Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, eliminated a series of policies, memos and other resources related to diversity, equity and inclusion that it called “discriminatory and divisive concepts” in the state’s public education system.
Oklahoma public school teachers are prohibited from teaching certain concepts of race and racism under a bill that Republican Gov. Kevin State signed into law in 2024.
On Thursday, the Llano County Court of Commissioners in Texas convened in private to consider shutting down the entire public library system rather than follow a federal judge’s order to return to shelves a slate of books on topics ranging from teen sexuality to bigotry.
After hearing public comments for and against the closure, the commissioners decided to remove the item from the agenda.
“We’re going to suppress your books. We’re going to suppress the conversation about race and racism, and we’re going to suppress your history, your AP course,” Morial said. “He is unique in his efforts to suppress black people.”
Other issues in his group’s report deal with extremism in the military and law enforcement, energy and climate change, and how current attitudes can influence public policy. Majority-white legislatures in Missouri and Mississippi have proposals that would transfer certain governmental power from some majority-black cities to states.
In many ways, the report reflects concerns that have surfaced in recent years in a country deeply divided about everything from how much K-12 students are taught about racism and gender to the legality of the 2020 election.
Forty percent of voters in last year’s election said their local K-12 public schools weren’t teaching enough about racism in the United States, while 34% said it was already too much, according to AP VoteCast, an expansive survey of American voters. 23 percent said the current curriculum was fine.
About two-thirds of Black voters said more should be taught about the topic, compared to about half of Hispanic voters and about a third of white voters.
Violence is a major area of concern addressed in the Urban League report, particularly in light of the 2024 mass shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York. The accused shooter left a statement raising the “Great Substitution Theory” as a motive in the killing.
Data released this year by the FBI indicated that hate crimes rose between 2020 and 2024. African Americans were disproportionately represented, accounting for 30% of incidents where bias was known.
By comparison, the second largest ethnic group targeted in the single-incident category was white victims, who made up 10%.
Rachel Carroll Rivas, deputy director of research for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, said that when all activities are tabulated, including hate crimes, rhetoric, incidents of discrimination and online misinformation, “we see a clear and troubling threat to America and a disproportionate impact on Americans.” blacks.”
Associated Press writers Julie Wright in Kansas City, Missouri, and Hannah Fingerhout contributed to this report.