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How Teachers Are Navigating Black History Month After A Year Of Death Threats & Fights Over Critical Race Theory

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Harriet Tubman statue in Boston

As February begins and the celebration of Black History Month is recognized, teachers are finding it more difficult than ever to teach about Black history — both in general and the celebratory month itself.

Conservatives have been racing and battling around the clock for years to push back against the “woke” agenda by condemning Critical Race Theory and erasing the history of oppression and racism that has been engraved in this country’s making.

Several states have increased the limitations for teachers who are teaching Black history.

Those against the teaching of Critical Race Theory believe teachers in schools are purposefully trying to paint white people in a negative light by teaching the truth about American history, oppression, and systemic racism against people of color that this country was founded and built on through designed lesson plans.

RELATED: How Removing Critical Race Theory From Schools Is Dumbing Down America

In reality, “Critical Race Theory, or CRT, is an academic and legal framework that denotes that systemic racism is part of American society — from education and housing to employment and healthcare. Critical Race Theory recognizes that racism is more than the result of individual bias and prejudice,” according to the NAACP FAQ page on CRT.

Conservatives find this to be very harmful and have started writing legislation that would prohibit teachers from being able to teach about race and the country’s history in that way.

Teachers are severly limited in how they can teach Black History Month.

An overwhelming amount of educators and leaders have received death threats and criticism for being accused of teaching Critical Race Theory.

At least six teachers resigned last year as a result as a result of the threats.

An Education Week analysis found that in the last year, 14 states have imposed such restrictions through legislation, executive actions, or commission votes.

In addition to that, 35 states have introduced bills or taken other steps to restrict teaching Critical Race Theory or limit how teachers can discuss racism and sexism.

These rules and restrictions threaten to impose fines, hurt credibility and increase the chance of receiving physical threats and suspend or even outright remove teachers from their positions.

Sharif El-Mekki, founder and CEO of the Center for Black Educator Development, laid out some examples for what exactly these restrictions mean, and what would and wouldn’t be allowed for a teacher to say to their students.

RELATED: Why Idaho’s Critical Race Theory Ban Is Just Another Attempt To Protect White Supremacy

Teachers would be allowed to talk about how Brooklyn Dodgers infielder Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball's color line, but couldn’t discuss why Black people were banned from playing for them before him.

“Teachers may also introduce Malcolm X but not read his speeches, mention soul singer Marvin Gaye but not discuss his ‘What's Going On’ lyrics, or point out Rosewood, Florida, or Tulsa, Oklahoma, on maps but not talk about the racial atrocities that occurred there.”

Even more restrictions on how teachers teach racism are expected to come.

Recently, Florida has been looking at a bill that would outright ban teaching history lessons that make students feel uncomfortable about their race, as well as banning businesses from training employees on discrimination in the workplace to avoid white “discomfort.”

Tracey Lynn Nance, a 4th-grade teacher in Decatur, Georgia, told Axios that there’s a split amongst teachers she knows about whether or not they would continue to teach Black History Month as previously planned.

"I think that many are self-censoring right now,” she said. “(Many) are feeling angry about thinking that someone is out to get them or they're going to twist their comments."

"These laws supposedly protecting white students from guilt say more about the authors of the law than the students," Manisha Sinha, a University of Connecticut historian and author of "The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition," told Axios.

"There's no reason why a white student can't identify with the abolitionist or the civil rights leader rather than a slaveholder," she added.

RELATED: Debate Over Penn State Professor Singling Out White Student To Show Privilege Proves The Point Of Critical Race Theory

Isaac Serna-Diez is a writer who focuses on entertainment and news, social justice, and politics. Follow him on Twitter here.

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