In January, House Bill 7 was introduced to the Alabama House of Representatives despite a similar bill failing to pass last year. The bill, which was introduced by Rep. Ed Oliver, would prohibit public schools from teaching "certain divisive concepts relating to race, sex, or religion." The bill does not specify any further on which topics would be prohibited but lawmakers opposed to the bill are speaking out against the proposal after HB7 progressed into committee last week.
"We strongly oppose HB7, known as the divisive concepts bill or CRT," Rep. Phillip Ensler said Wednesday during a press conference for the Alabama House Democratic Caucus. "We must face the whole truth of history or we are doomed to repeat it... We ask that everybody stand with us against this bill that is only going to divide people more."
Ensler spoke more specifically on the idea of Critical Race Theory, citing it as the main reason this bill was introduced in the first place. However, Ensler said CRT is not even taught in public schools through 12th grade and is rarely ever taught at the college level. He said the bill is just a distraction from focusing on actual education issues.
During the press conference Wednesday, Ensler said he believes teaching accurate history will be more helpful than anything else.
"The same way teaching the history of systemic racism in America will not make black children feel inferior," Ensler said. "There are already plenty of things that already do that such as going to schools named after generals that fought to keep their ancestors enslaved, or other confederate monuments in public squares. Nor will teaching history make them think all white people are at fault. In the way that knowing my history empowered me, their history can empower them."
Ensler, who is Jewish and is a former history teacher, also spoke on the Holocaust and why it is still being taught in schools across the world. He said learning about those topics as a kid never made him feel inferior and it also never made him think all German people were at fault.
"It simply taught me the facts of what happened," Ensler said.
"As Jews, we passionately advocate for children to learn of the atrocities of the Holocaust so that we can never allow such hatred to occur again. And we are taught to advocate for a more just, inclusive peaceful place for all people."
Ensler added that being faced with that history motivated him more and made him proudly embrace his identity.
Rep. AJ McCampbell also spoke at the press conference Wednesday.
"Start framing it from the perspective of the Civil War," McCampbell said. "We now honor generals from the Civil War, naming our high schools and different things like that for them, so that the people here in the south can remember the Civil War. MAGA, make America great again... when was America great for black people?"
"I'm not going to let the people in my community forget the history because there were too many black people who gave their lives for this. Too many people who gave their lives for us as black people to have this right."
Oilver said he didn't have time to speak about the bill Wednesday afternoon. However, he claimed some democrats framed the bill as anti-black history but he said that's not what it is. He just believes it was important to get an anti-CRT bill into law.