A measure sponsored by a Gilbert lawmaker and sent Gov. Doug Ducey precludes the use of taxpayer dollars to train public employees about race, ethnicity and sex discrimination if it also mentions blame or judgment.
The bill was approved in a 16-14 party vote in the Republican-controlled Senate and never has had a public hearing. It was approved on a similar party-line vote earlier this month in the House.
It came over objections from several lawmakers who said the kind of training this measure seeks to preclude is necessary for people to understand the history of discrimination in this country in order to overcome it.
Supporters say state dollars should not be used to tell people they are to blame for racism.
Rep. Jake Hoffman of Queen Creek – who represents Legislative District 12, which includes much of Gilbert –used a procedural maneuver in the House to attach the language to another bill, all without allowing for public comment.
He said the teaching is based on a premise about institutional racism that he does not believe exists.
“America is not racist,’’ Hoffman said during the earlier House debate. He said that, going back as far as the Civil War, there is a history of “stomping out racism’’ wherever it exists.
“This nation is accepting and diverse and loving,’’ Hoffman continued. “And sadly the trend of teaching this hateful, racist and bigoted revision of the story of America has reached a fever pitch amongst the activist community on the Left that seek to denigrate and demean nearly every American citizen. And it must be addressed.”
But foes said backers are missing the point. “These are uncomfortable conversations,’’ said Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale. “They aren’t supposed to make you feel good,’’ he said. “That’s the point of these conversations.’’
Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, said that while the goal of such training “makes a lot of sense and we should be together,” she said SB 1074 precludes training, orientation or therapy “that presents any form of blame or judgment on the basis of race, ethnicity or sex.’’
She said “blame or judgment’’ is specifically defined to include things like one race, ethnic group or sex is “inherently morally or intellectually superior to another race, ethnic group or sex.’’
That definition of what could not be used in training also includes that an individual, by virtue of that person’s race, ethnicity or sex, “is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously,’’ Townsend said.
SB 1074 is designed to address a concept that has been called “critical race theory.’’ In essence, it suggests that racism is not solely a matter of individual actions but it in some ways built into society through policies like red-lining which denied homes or loans to minorities and other segregationist policies.
It also has become a political lightning rod for attack by Republicans.
Quezada said Thursday the goal of the training is to have the conversations about the history of America – and not just through a single lens – as a first step towards fixing problems that still exist today.
He said the majority needs to understand the differences that minorities face “from the day we are born when the doctor doesn’t look like us, to the time we are going to school and our teacher doesn’t look like us, to the time we go and apply for a job and the person interviewing us doesn’t look like us and doesn’t understand us, to the time we become elected to the Senate and our colleagues don’t all look like us and don’t all understand us.’’
This bill, Quezada said, is a step backwards.
Townsend, however, said she cannot accept the idea of using public funds to teach that any individual is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive based on that person’s race, sex or ethnicity.
Sen. Sally Ann Gonzales, D-Tucson, said avoiding those conversations ignores the realities that many people face in government, in schools and in employment.
“We cannot get rid of racism in this country unless we first acknowledge it, talk about it and come up with solutions to get rid of it,’’ she said.