Granderson: Looking for opposing perspectives on the Holocaust? Try Texas

Texas state lawmakers reconvened this week for their latest special session.
Texas state lawmakers reconvened for a special session in late September. (Molly Hennessy-Fiske / Los Angeles Times)

Can you think of an opposing view on the Holocaust that isn’t antisemitic? Evidently, a school administrator in Texas seems to think so.

Gina Peddy, the executive director of curriculum and instruction for the Carroll Independent School District in Southlake, Texas, was caught on an audio recording telling teachers to “make sure that if you have a book on the Holocaust, that you have one that has an opposing, that has other perspectives."

I hope she wasn’t proposing that teachers supply students with neo-Nazi propaganda.

This all started with Republican lawmakers in Texas looking for ways to have teachers talk about American history without making white people look bad. I kid you not.

When hysteria over critical race theory became all the rage in the past year, the Texas Legislature came up with House Bill 3979 — a great whitewashing effort that instructs teachers who choose “to discuss widely debated and currently controversial issues” to “explore such issues from diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective.”

Of course, before the CRT “threat,” Texas conservatives were already upset because the state’s new history standards point out that slavery played “the central role” in the Civil War — 155 years after the end of the Civil War. Until the 2019-2020 school year, students were taught the war was caused by sectionalism and state’s rights, with slavery merely a third factor.

The political sanitizing got a booster shot with the passage of HB 3979, which prohibits any teacher from being trained on issues “that presents any form of race or sex stereotyping or blame on the basis of race or sex.” Can you think of a way to talk about American slavery without the role of race? How do you have an intelligent discussion about women’s suffrage without addressing the role of men? You don’t.

And that appears to be just fine for the 100 Republicans in the state Legislature — 95 of whom are white and only 13 are women. In a state that is more than 50% female and more than 56% people of color, HB 3979 is more like a bunker for the insecure than a thoughtful approach to pedagogy.

Texas state Sen. Kelly Hancock, a Republican, immediately took to Twitter to blame Peddy for her statement: “School administrators should know the difference between factual historical events and fiction,” he wrote, adding that “no legislation is suggesting the action this administrator is promoting.” Seems like Hancock didn’t read HB 3979 at all.

Now, because this unnecessary law was created to prevent educators from teaching students about systemic racism, it’s quite possible Texas Republicans didn’t consider how it could apply to other issues. In other words, maybe getting neo-Nazi propaganda in the school library to balance out the Holocaust wasn’t part of the plan.

Still, I’m sure the KKK would love to circulate some pamphlets showing all the good that came from discriminating against Black people in education, housing, banking, employment, healthcare, criminal justice, to name a few issues. You know, just offering “other perspectives.”

Maybe if one of your state’s claims to fame is being the last in the nation to tell enslaved people that they’re free, suppressing information about race should not be a 2021 agenda item.

In apologizing for the incident, Supt. Lane Ledbetter of the Carroll Independent School District, said Peddy’s comments “were in no way to convey that the Holocaust was anything less than a terrible event in history” and “we recognize there are not two sides of the Holocaust.”

But the thing is, there are two sides — humanity versus Hitler. Peddy’s comments were reprehensible, but the confusion is not surprising given the purpose of HB 3979, which is to provide cover for those who committed heinous acts while erasing the long-standing ramifications of those acts.

Of course, doing so requires that we ignore certain “factual historical events,” to borrow Hancock’s words. Things like Texas’ declaration of secession in 1861, which, in part, stated: “We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.”

Seems pretty racist to me. I can see why many Republican lawmakers don’t want to talk about it. At least, not factually.

@LZGranderson

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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