Gov. Wes Moore of Maryland, the nation’s only Black governor, is pushing back against political figures and Republican-led legislatures that have crusaded for banning books and for what has been derided as “divisive concepts” from being taught in school.
“I look around the country and I see book banning. I’m looking around the country right now and I’m seeing … teachers being censored. I see [the] curriculum of truth being taken out,” said Moore, a Democrat, during a commencement speech Sunday at Morehouse College, a historically Black and all-male college in Atlanta.
Moore’s remarks on the nation’s culture wars were the first he has made on the issue since being sworn into office this year.
“When politicians ban books and muzzle educators,” he said, “they say it’s an effort to prevent discomfort guilt — but we know that’s not true. This is not about a fear of making people feel bad. It is about a fear of people understanding their power.”
He also encouraged the graduates to “confront this threat” in the next phase of their lives and use the challenges learned from previous eras of American history for the betterment of mankind. The alternative, he warned, was that “those who yearn to destroy history” will not stop at Black history, but will continue the erasure of the hardship and contributions made by AAPI, Jewish, Indigenous and LGBTQ communities.
“A threat to any history is a threat to all history,” Moore said. “I’m talking about everyone in this country who has been a part of the American story — and who are watching the stories of those who came before us be wiped away.”
Moore’s remarks are the latest sign yet that Democrats see book banning as a galvanizing issue heading into next year’s general election cycle. It is also a sign he is looking to raise his national profile and testing ways to elevate his presence during the upcoming 2024 election cycle. He is seen as a rising star within the Democratic Party with many predicting a White House run down the line.
President Joe Biden, who is just weeks into his reelection campaign, highlighted the issue in a pair of campaign videos released last month that focused on GOP efforts to restrict curriculum and cast him as a bulwark against “MAGA extremists” looking to roll back America’s freedoms.
Biden in a commencement speech last weekend at Howard University, an HBCU in Washington, D.C., also denounced white supremacy, calling it the “most dangerous terrorist threat” to the nation, an issue progressive activists have been urging him to speak about more forcefully as his reelection campaign ramps up in earnest.
Both Biden and Moore’s remarks come on the heels of at least 26 states having seen books banned in recent years with conservatives arguing that critical race theory, a decades-old legal framework that explores how racism is threaded in nearly all aspects of American institutions, is nothing more than “woke” politicians on the left pushing to indoctrinate children. Critical race theory, as it is often referred to, is rarely, if ever, taught in primary and secondary schools, but is used as a catch-all term to by those on the right to deride what they see as liberals trying to focus too much on race-based teachings in public school education.
This is a salient issue in conservative politics.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is one of several Republican governors who in recent years has signed into law education bills limiting what can be taught in classrooms while also bolstering parents’ ability to have greater influence over school curriculum.
At a ceremony highlighting the signing of several education bills into law in April of 2022, Kemp characterized it this way: “It ensures all of our state and nation’s history is taught accurately — because here in Georgia, our classrooms will not be pawns of those who want to indoctrinate our kids with their partisan political agendas.”
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis this month signed a series of bills aimed at prohibiting institutions from spending federal or state funds on what his office called “discriminatory initiatives” that included programs centered on diversity, equity and inclusion.
DeSantis is expected to launch his own White House run in the coming days. He has been a prominent figure in the culture wars, positioning himself as an “anti-woke” champion on divisive issues including race, sexual orientation, gender identity and education as he tries to woo Republican primary voters across the nation. “Florida is where woke goes to die,” DeSantis has said at times.
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