Recently, a Texas school district temporarily banned the works of acclaimed children’s author, Jerry Craft, and canceled the author’s scheduled visit to the school because 30 parents accused the books of promoting Critical Race Theory (CRT) (Beals). The author is Black, and the school serves students in a suburb of the most diverse city in these United States (Alvord).
But why does this incident matter?
A few months ago, Texas lawmakers passed House Bill 3979 (Education Week). In order to counteract the bill’s key focus of prohibiting teachers from discussing CRT, House Democrats proposed a number of curriculum requirements that included topics relating to diversity and inclusivity (TTV). Retribution came swiftly in the form of Senate Bill 3, which Texas governor, Greg Abbott signed in September. SB 3 strikes all curriculum requirements previously passed in HB 3979 relating to gender studies, Indigenous history, Latinx heritage, the Civil Rights movement, et cetera (Winter). The resulting narrative of the two bills has been one of confusion, as the current published curriculum still includes many of these topics (Will and Catherine Gewertz).
But why is this divergence into Texas current events important to the rest of the Nation?
In the first chapter of the book of Exodus, the author begins to set the stage for what will become a timeless story of liberation:
Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.
Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” Therefore, they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens… But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. So, they ruthlessly made the people work as slaves (Crossway).
When I was preparing to write this piece, I checked my copy of “The Slave Bible,” (commissioned in 1807 for the purpose of the evangelizing persons who had been enslaved by British colonizers in the West Indies (Lumpkin)), to see how much of the story of liberation European colonizers had allowed. But there was no story of liberation. The only shreds of Exodus remaining was four pages of law.
But what does Exodus have to do with Texas; and what does Texas have to do with the rest of the Nation?
Imagine how white power structures began to tremble in 2005, when Texas became the largest conservative state to report a white minority population (NPR). 2020 Census data indicates that, not only are whites the minority, but that it would not be surprising if the Hispanic population itself will surpass the white majority within the next year.
This, readers, is one of the greatest fears of white Texans: that the Disinherited will grow numerous and strong enough to reclaim their stolen inheritance. I find it interesting that Exodus, one of the greatest liberation stories in history, opens with the oppressor being afraid that the local shepherds are too numerous. To our knowledge, Joseph’s descendants had done nothing to threaten the king… other than exist. But the king takes drastic measures to decrease their population, to minimize their story.
Because some people start to get afraid when the colors change and the leaves are liberated.
Unless cycles are interrupted, the oppressor will forever live in fear of the power of those they oppress.
Pharoah flexed his authority to micromanage the physical narrative of the Israelites’ daily lives. When the Israelites’ had the audacity to flourish despite oppression, Pharoah attacked the sacred intimacy of their families by targeting their children.
In Texas, white power is grasping at the threads of their majority population, also trying to control the narrative. But Texas is just a few years ahead of the rest of the nation. Statisticians predict that people of color will surpass the current national white majority in the next 23 years (Miller).
Right now, there are those in power that dread the liberation that comes with the changing of colors. The struggle now is for the narrative: because one is law and control and one is liberation.
By Naphtali Renshaw
ALA. “First Amendment and Censorship.” October 2021. American Library Association. <https://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/censorship>.
Alvord, Kyler. “These Are the Most Diverse Cities in the U.S. Right Now.” 19 04 2021. MSN.com. <https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/crime/these-are-the-most-diverse-cities-in-the-us-right-now/ar-BB1fPoBN>.
Beals, Monique. “Texas school district pulls books of children’s author over ‘critical race theory’.” 6 October 2021. TheHill.com. <https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/575662-texas-school-district-pulls-books-of-childrens-author-over-critical-race?fbclid=IwAR1tegR-iTGx69oxO4dZiRrypzvofbAmRVtyi6zWQJJgXE9hH1HVLAi364c>.
Crossway. ESV Bible, The UltraThin Edition. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001.
Education Week. “Full Text of the Texas Law Restricting Classroom Talk on Racism (HB 3979).” 15 July 2021. Education Week. <https://www.edweek.org/policy-politics/full-text-of-the-texas-law-restricting-classroom-talk-on-racism-hb-3979/2021/07>.
Lopez, Brian. “How a Black high school principal was swept into a “critical race theory” maelstrom in a mostly white Texas suburb.” 18 September 2021. The Texas Tribune. <https://www.texastribune.org/2021/09/18/colleyville-principal-critical-race-theory/>.
Lumpkin, Joseph. The Negro Bible — The Slave Bible: Select Parts of the Holy Bible, Selected for the use of the Negro Slaves, in the British West-India Islands. Blountsville: Fifth Estate Publishers, 2019. Paperback.
Miller, Ryan W. “46% of whites worry becoming a majority-minority nation will ‘weaken American culture,’ survey says.” 21 March 2019. US Today. <https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/03/21/pew-survey-whites-fearful-minority-country-will-weaken-american-culture/3217218002/>.
NPR. “Whites Now the Minority in Texas.” 11 August 2005. NPR. <https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4795476>.
TTV. “Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: July 16, 2021.” 16 July 2021. Teach the Vote. <https://teachthevote.atpe.org/Our-Blog/Latest-Posts/Teach-the-Vote-s-Week-in-Review-July-16,-2021>.
Will, Madeline and Ileana Najarro & Sarah Schwartz Catherine Gewertz. “What Does the Critical Race Theory Law Mean for Texas Classrooms? Teachers Speak Out.” 15 July 2021. Education Week. <https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/what-does-the-critical-race-theory-law-mean-for-texas-classrooms-teachers-speak-out/2021/07>.
Winter, Emery. “No, Texas has not banned schools from teaching about MLK’s speeches or KKK’s history with white supremacy.” 26 July 2021. VerifyThis.com. <https://www.verifythis.com/article/news/verify/education-verify/texas-not-banned-history-marginalized-groups-school-curriculums/536-fb588fe9-b861-472d-ae0f-7af751d2eab3>.