Texas Board of Education Strikes Down Proposal to Rename Slavery ‘Involuntary Relocation’

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Image: Maskot/Getty Images.

The State Board of Education of Texas has struck down a proposal from a group of educators who sought to rename slavery “involuntary relocation,” reports the Washington Post.

According to the report, members of the group who recommended the name change included “teachers, social studies specialists, instructional coaches and a university professor,” according to a list on the education agency’s website.

The transcript of a 13-hour meeting that was held on June 15 said that members of the committee received an update on the social studies review before giving their feedback. The board was accepting proposals to update the state’s public school social studies curriculum.

“The committee provided the following guidance to the work group completing recommendations for kindergarten-grade 8: … For K-2, carefully examine the language used to describe events, specifically the term ‘involuntary relocation.’ ”

Aicha Davis, who represents Dallas and Fort Worth as a Democratic board member, raised the issue of the proposed name change during a meeting, the Texas Tribune reported.

Davis said that while looking through numerous recommendations, she noticed the proposed language change and “immediately questioned it.”

“I am not going to support anything that describes the slave trade as ‘involuntary relocation,’” she said. “I’m not gonna support anything that diminishes that journey.”

The drafts of the proposal stated that students should “compare journeys to America, including voluntary Irish immigration and involuntary relocation of African people during colonial times.” 

Davis argued that the experiences of enslaved Africans and Europeans who immigrated to America are not the same and should not be blurred by deploying the term “involuntary relocation.”

“The journey for the Irish folk is totally different from the journey of Africans,” she said, noting that any comparisons “will distort a lot of things in a young child’s mind.”

Keven Ellis, chair of the State Board of Education said in a statement that the board “voted unanimously to send the language back to be reworked.” 

“This board is committed to the truth, which includes accurate descriptions of historical events,” he said.

According to Ellis, there had been no attempt to “hide the truth from Texas second graders about slavery.”

In a statement, the Texas Education Agency responded to the firestorm created by the proposal.

“As documented in the meeting minutes, the SBOE provided feedback in the meeting indicating that the working group needed to change the language related to ‘involuntary relocation,’” the statement read.

“Any assertion that the SBOE is considering downplaying the role of slavery in American history is completely inaccurate,” the statement continued.

Annette Gordon-Reed, a history professor at Harvard University, noted that using “involuntary relocation” as a descriptor for slavery threatens to “blur out” the horrific events and the ongoing ramifications that Black people still encounter today. There is no reason to use the proposed language, she said.

“Young kids can grasp the concept of slavery and being kidnapped into it,” Gordon-Reed said. “The African slave trade is unlike anything that had or has happened, the numbers and distance.”

The state of Texas along with many other southern states have been crafting policies that ban anything that resembles teachings on the history of race and racism in public schools.

Last year, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill prohibiting K-12 public schools from teaching “critical race theory,” a field of study built on the idea of systemic racism, not limited to individual prejudices.

Conservatives have deployed the term “critical race theory” as a “dog whistle” to ban teaching the historical truths of race in America in their school systems.

Despite the challenge by the group, Davis is committed to shining the light on the reality of the Black experience in this country without any whitewashing.

“I don’t like it because it’s a personal belief. I don’t like it because it’s not rooted in truth,” she said. “We can have all the discussions we want, but we have to adopt the truth for our students.”

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