The Dallas County Commissioners Court passed a resolution on Tuesday supporting the teaching of comprehensive Black history.
The unanimous approval of the resolution comes as many around the nation debate Florida’s recent ban on an African American history course in high schools and the movement to end the teaching of critical race theory.
The resolution denounced “the unrealistic attack on Black history lessons based on politically motivated attacks on critical race theory.”
Commissioners agreed that systemic racism negatively affects the health, welfare and economic opportunities of nonwhite people in Texas and should be studied in public schools and universities.
The resolution states the county’s position on critical race theory, but does not include any further action.
Critical race theory is an academic framework that probes the way policies and laws uphold systemic racism. But conservatives have given a new connotation to this theory, saying that it teaches children in public secondary schools to believe they are inherently racist.
Commissioner John Wiley Price, who brought forward the resolution, said public policy over the years has embedded racist actions, including redlining in Dallas neighborhoods and health and transit disparities.
“Remnants of that policy still exist today,” Price said.
The debate over how to teach Black history flared up in recent weeks after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis denounced the College Board’s Advanced Placement African American Studies course.
The College Board’s Advanced Placement program gives high school students the opportunity to take college-level courses and earn college credit through an exam.
DeSantis’ administration tried to block the course last month, saying the course is “inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.”
The course is currently in a pilot phase. Topics discussed in the experimental course included Black Lives Matter, reparations and Black incarceration over the years. Last week, the College Board updated the curriculum, cutting such topics, but released a statement saying that political debates did not play a factor in the decision.
Dallas County Judge Clay Lewis Jenkins said this curriculum change gives the impression that racism is a part of the country’s history, not a present issue.
“Institutionalized racism is still pervasive in our society that people don’t see cripples Black and brown peoples of opportunity and a full participation in the American dream,” Lewis Jenkins said.
The resolution accused state legislatures in Florida and Texas of using critical race theory as a “lightning rod.”
In Texas, a bill filed by Rep. Cody Harris, R-Palestine, would withhold state funds from universities that teach critical race theory. The bill proposes that universities receiving state funds cannot teach that “an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, is ... inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”
In 2021, Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation aimed at keeping critical race theory out of public schools. The law said a teacher cannot be required to discuss “widely debated and currently controversial issues of public policy or social affairs,” but does not define those controversial issues. If these issues are talked about, the teacher must “explore that topic objectively and in a manner free from political bias.”
Price said in an interview the Commissioners Court commends Dallas ISD, where the state-specific African American history course was first piloted and garnered widespread support. The AP African American Studies course is not currently offered in DISD, but three other schools in the state are teaching it as part of a pilot program.
The resolution called on Dallas County to resist “the current trend of trampling every aspect of diversity” by “any means necessary.” When asked about this statement, Price said Black history is synonymous with resistance and a course can only be accurate if its curriculum does not “whitewash” history.
Commissioner Theresa Daniel said it’s important that officials have these discussions for the integrity of education. Commissioner Elba Garcia said history needs to be told as it was.
“We have to put in perspective where we came from and where we’re going,” she said. “I can’t believe that we are in the 21st century, we are still having some of the same challenges.”
Staff writer Meghan Mangrum contributed to this report.