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Opinion | HB7 and a cultural revolution

It seems the art of governing is identifying the wrong problem, applying an incompetent remedy and declaring victory.

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A bill to ban divisive concepts from “certain public entities, including state agencies, local boards of education, and public institutions of higher education” was given a favorable report in committee last week, with white legislators voting yes and Black lawmakers voting no.

HB7 is another front in the so-called culture wars to eliminate public discussions of race, sex and religion to purify the nation of diversity. It also points to a desire for a cultural revolution.

Our state and nation have a fault line regarding racial inequality and sexual orientation that laws like HB7 hope to stamp out by pretending they don’t exist.

Is there any reasonable individual who believes the solution to a serious problem is to ignore it? Isn’t the first key to solving a problem admitting it exists, and the second step discussing it?

What if, rather than banning divisive concepts, the state encouraged open and frank, age-appropriate education with the goal of understanding and perhaps even finding a way out of the present dilemma?

Perhaps expecting pragmatism from policymakers is too much to ask since it seems the art of governing is identifying the wrong problem, applying an incompetent remedy and declaring victory.

Divisive concepts are code words for Critical Race Theory, which is merely a boogeyman to divide the nation and state for political gain.

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During her recent re-election campaign, Gov. Kay Ivey said the state had banned the teaching of CRT in grade schools, and, in practice, she was correct.

In August 2021, the State Board of Education banned CRT from being taught in classrooms across the state. After the passage of the resolution, Ivey said: “As I’ve said many times, CRT doesn’t belong in Alabama schools.”

“CRT currently isn’t being taught in Alabama classrooms, and I’ve previously called on the Alabama School Board to keep it that way,” the governor said. “We need to focus on teaching Alabama kids how to read and write, not hate.”

If CRT or so-called divisive concepts are not being used in grade schools or public institutions, why is there a need for a law? The sponsor of HB7 — Rep. Ed Oliver, R-Dadeville — doesn’t seem to know what a divisive concept is or offer a coherent reason why it needs to be purged.

At the recent public hearing, Oliver said the law is “designed to prevent racism in schools and state agencies.” He had a different take on the bill when asked about it last year. “Ultimately, the reason that the left wants to push CRT amongst little kids is simply they want to sexualize them,” Oliver said.

“They want to racialize them at an early age to make them easy to manage, pure and simple,” he said. “I hate to say a way to create more left-wingers that are woke and will do the things that the left wants them to do, but that’s exactly what it is, to divide people. To make groups fight each other, so they’re easier to manage.”

So is it about sex and the procreation of more liberals, or about banishing racism? Was Oliver lying in December 2022, or is he lying now? Or could it be that the bill itself is vague to the point of dangerousness and absurdity?

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The fact is HB7 is a lemming law that follows behind other red states that have passed similar legislation, and it is not surprising as Alabama seems to be in a constant race to restrict individual choice and freedom of expression unless it aligns with a narrow orthodoxy.

The proposed legislation is not about education or state agencies in the sense of improving the outcome for students or citizen services; it is about control.

Dominating education is fundamental in an authoritarian society. In the 1930s and 1940s, Germany used education to instill values in children, which led to World War II and the extermination of six million Jews. The Soviet Union likewise did the same. Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution in the People’s Republic of China led to mass incarceration, re-education camps and wholesale murder of academics. The list is long and not unprecedented.

The Cultural Revolution in Iran expelled Western and non-Islamic influences from the state, leading with its universities. “The ‘Committee for Islamization of Universities’ carried out the task by ensuring an ‘Islamic atmosphere’ for every subject from engineering to the humanities.”

Have no doubt there are forces within Alabama and the United States that would carry out such cleansing if the door is opened wide enough by small bills like HB7.

Be not deceived like those who believed Roe v. Wade was stare decisis — every liberty is constantly threatened.

For now, HB7 is part of a slow-moving coup gaining momentum. Revolutions to turn back modernity have a singular goal of total state control. Whether Berlin, Moscow, Beijing, Tehran, or Montgomery, legislation and the barrel of a gun are the devices used to wrestle a free society to subjugation.

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The divisive concepts legislation is just the latest gambit to reorder the state and nation to fit the liking of a few individuals who seek power first.

There is no mistake that the divisive concepts bill is an effort to create a foothold to welcome more restrictive legislation to the end of one ideology dominating public education, public discourse and public life.

The state spends billions to create a pro-business image to attract business and generate good jobs for Alabamians — bills like HB7 undermine those efforts.

HB7 seems like petty legislation, but it is a fifth column toward an imperious, illiberal cultural revolution.

The first step to resolve a problem is to acknowledge it is real.

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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