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B-N NAACP Reacts To Conservative Fight Against Teaching Of Racism In America

Woman holding up a sign in a crowded conference room
Emily Bollinger
About 50 people attended the District 87 school board meeting on Wednesday, with many speaking out against a variety of issues, including the way African American history is taught.

Bloomington-Normal NAACP leaders say a conservative campaign of pushback against the way Black history is taught shows a need for more honest conversations about what divides the community.

Conservative media and community members railed against the District 87 school board at Wednesday night’s meeting over what they call "indoctrination" by teaching students about the history of racism in America.

Bloomington-Normal NAACP President Linda Foster said tension has been brewing in school board meetings for weeks—in both District 87 and Unit 5.

Foster said it's a reflection of the national political turmoil.

"I guess we should've expected that it would trickle down to our town,” Foster said. “It's unfortunate, because I always felt like we can be bigger and better than that."

“The things that they were bringing up are things that we need to have a conversation about, so that we can better understand what it is that is impeding us from getting to where we need to be—which is a better place than where we are.”

Some at the meeting rallied against critical race theory—an academic framework based on the idea that racism is a social construct, not a product of individual bias—claiming it’s “made-up history” and “Marxism" that "pits kids against each other" based on the color of their skin.

"We love America, just like they do. However, we do know that the playing field is unlevel, and it has been since 1619."
Dr. Carla Campbell-Jackson

Critical race theory is not mandated as part of Illinois's curriculum—nor is the 1619 Project, a journalistic look at how slavery shaped America. Some states have moved to ban those teaching tools.

NAACP Vice President Carla Campbell-Jackson said there’s confusion.

“Critical race theory simply acknowledges that systemic racism is interwoven in the American fabric,” Campbell-Jackson said.

“Obviously, we challenge any premises that allows racism and discrimination to flourish—and I think most people will concur with that. However, to not embrace diversity and inclusion is mystifying.”

Campbell-Jackson said what’s actually being taught in Bloomington-Normal schools—and what’s being challenged by conservatives—is simply a more complete version of American history that doesn't erase the accomplishments of Black people or skirt around the fact that racism is real.

Campbell-Jackson said those conversations are uncomfortable, but necessary.

“We love America, just like they do. However, we do know that the playing field is unlevel, and it has been since 1619,” said Campbell-Jackson, referring to the year the first enslaved Africans were brought to America.

“America’s first sin is painful, and it was wrong. In order for us to move forward and make things better for our future generations, we must be willing to address those issues that have allowed systemic racism and instances of discrimination to continue even to today,” she said.

Campbell-Jackson said it's a matter of being willing to learn and have conversations—something the NAACP and District 87 administrators say conservative campaigners have been unwilling to do outside of school board meetings.

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