Rep. Ed Oliver

File / The Outlook

State Rep. Ed Oliver (R-Dadeville) speaks to the Alexander City City Council earlier this year. 

Local representative Ed Oliver has pre-filed a bill that expands upon a proposed critical race theory ban in Alabama public schools, extending that ban to all state agencies and contractors.

The bill defines nine "divisive concepts" prohibited from being taught as fact.

"It does not preclude teaching critical race theory in schools," Rep. Oliver (R-Dadeville) said. "It doesn't mean you can't have the discussion. It just means you have to teach it the way you'd teach anything else, as a debate."

While a bill pre-filed by Rep. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile) earlier this month already seeks to prohibit the teaching of critical race theory in public school districts, colleges and universities, Oliver's bill, House Bill 9, extends the ban to any training program, such as an employee training program, of all state agencies, contractors and sub-contractors. The proposed legislation also defines the teachings being banned.  

"(The definition) is almost right out of Wikipedia," Oliver said.

According to its Wikipedia definition, "Critical race theory (CRT) is an academic movement of civil-rights scholars and activists in the United States who seek to critically examine U.S. law as it intersects with issues of race in the U.S. and to challenge mainstream American liberal approaches to racial justice."

The theory was developed in the 1970s and proposes that racism is propagated by legal systems and policymaking, not just individual bias.

However, House Bill 9 does not explicitly mention "critical race theory" in its text, instead stipulating Alabama "shall not teach, instruct or train any employee, contractor, staff member, student or any other individual group to adopt or believe divisive concepts." The bill then lists nine "divisive concepts" included in the ban:

  1. That one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex.
  2. That this state or the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist.
  3. That an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.
  4. That an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex.
  5. That members of one race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race or sex.
  6. That an individual's moral character is necessarily determined by his or her race or sex.
  7. That an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex.
  8. That any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex.
  9. That meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist, or were created by a particular race to oppress another race.

If passed, House Bill 9 would require all state contracts to include a provision condemning the nine aforementioned concepts. Oliver says the bill explicitly states diversity and inclusion training programs are not included in the ban.

In explaining his concerns that prompted the bill, Oliver described a college class taken by a friend's daughter.

"She went through an indoctrination course that was just unacceptable," he said. "'Defund the police,' 'oppress the oppressor' — in other words, it was (B.S.). And I hate to be that crude."

Some educators are speaking out, however, against proposed bans on the teachings of critical race theory as at best, a misunderstanding of the theory, and at worst, a suppression of free speech. Last week the University of Alabama's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee sent a letter calling on higher education officials to protest the proposed legislation.

University of Alabama School of Law professor Ronald J. Krotoszynski, Jr. also wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Post describing the proposed critical race theory bans, as well as legislation already enacted in Florida, Arkansas, Idaho and Oklahoma, as "both misguided and unconstitutional; they constitute bad education policy, and in the higher education context, they violate the First Amendment."

Oliver disagrees his bill is a "slippery slope."

"Freedom of speech is incredibly important," he said. "I think it's real important we're not doing anything draconian or medieval mind control."

Neither Oliver's nor Pringle's bill will be voted upon until the next Alabama state legislative session in February 2022.