A contentious public hearing on the Senate’s “divisive concepts bill” was held on Wednesday during the State Governmental Affairs Committee meeting.
Although the bill, SB247, is sponsored by Sen. Will Barfoot, Rep. Ed Oliver, R-Dadeville, spoke during the public hearing explaining the intent of the bill. Oliver is the sponsor of the House’s “divisive concepts” bill, HB7, which is the blueprint for the Senate version.
Oliver said that the bill would not prevent the teaching of slavery, Black history, or that racism exists. The intent of the bill, Oliver said, was to prevent the teaching of “woke” ideologies, although the legislation never mentions “woke”.
“What this bill does is it stops a new woke ideology that divides people, adults and children alike,” Oliver said.
The bill would prohibit certain public institutions like K-12 schools and colleges from promoting or endorsing certain divisive concepts relating to race, sex, or religion.
Oliver has attempted to pass similar legislation during the previous two sessions but is confident it will pass this year. In December, Oliver went on Rightside Radio and said that the left wants to “sexualize” and “racialize” little kids by pushing Critical Race Theory (CRT) to make them easier to control.
SB247 defines nine “divisive concepts” while HB7 only defines seven. The two additional “divisive concepts” include, “That meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist” and “anything contrary to the fact that, with respect to American values, slavery and racism are deviations from, betrayals of, and failures to live up to the founding principles of the United States, which include liberty and equality.”
During the public hearing, several opponents and proponents of the bill were given the opportunity to argue why the legislation should pass or be voted down.
Several opponents said that the statute would make teaching more difficult, limit discussion on issues pertaining to race, and is hypocritical.
Camille Bennett, the founder of Project Say Something, stated that it was actually divisive to maintain monuments to Confederate soldiers.
“Understand that state-funded Confederate monuments that commemorate a war fought to keep Black bodies enslaved is divisive,” Bennett said.
Supporters of the bill each added that the bill would not prevent the teaching of history or race but just prevent indoctrination from occurring.
Patrick Hermann, an English professor at the University of Alabama, said he taught CRT and Marxism and supported the bill because he believes the legislation would curb the ability of teachers to indoctrinate students.
Sens. Mericka Coleman and Robert Stewart both gave an impassioned rebuke of the legislation. Stewart gave a personal account of the racism his grandparents had to endure as sharecroppers and his grandfather being denied a VA loan after World War II.
Coleman spoke to APR and said that the bill was inherently partisan and divisive because there was no input from minorities. Coleman also said the bill is about CRT, although never explicitly mentioned.
“The House member opened his comments with very polarizing statements bringing in the national issue of wokeism and didn’t define what that meant,” Coleman said. “And so the legislation on its face in my opinion is about critical race theory. That’s what it’s about.”
The legislation passed the committee with a 7-3 vote and will move to the Senate for debate and potential passage.