CONCORD, NH – New Hampshire racial justice advocates who have been organizing against the “divisive concepts” language inserted into the state budget and passed by Governor Chris Sununu were dismayed to learn that an educator in Tennessee, Matthew Hawn, was fired by his school board for violating a similar state law. The law in Tennessee was also inspired by the Trump Administrations’ Executive Order 13950, which served as the catalyst for Sununu’s law banning important conversations around systemic racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, and more. Coalition members released the following statements:
Grace Kindeke, Program Coordinator, American Friends Services Committee NH: “This disturbing but unsurprising termination is an alarming indication of the ways these censorship laws will stifle educators and uphold white supremacy. Mr. Hawn was willing to lose his job in order to teach his students the truth. Systems of oppression take on many forms and those who uphold white supremacy use respectability and narrow definitions of what is considered appropriate in order to silence and deny any truth that challenges or highlights the violence being perpetuated against historically marginalized communities.”
Clifton West Jr., Executive Director, Black Lives Matter Seacoast: “What is most disturbing from a Black Lives Matter perspective is the reasoning for the educator’s dismissal. The school board, acting on behalf of the state government of Tennessee, demanded that Mr. Hawn teach an alternative viewpoint to the very existence of white supremacy. The existence of white supremacy is not a viewpoint, it is a fact. We are seeing the degradation of fact and the dilution of Black American history happen before our very eyes. I applaud this teacher for his moral courage in educating about the pervasiveness of white supremacy. I know we have strong educators here in New Hampshire who will not back down from teaching the truth about the societal ills of white supremacy and systemic oppression, and those educators should know that Black Lives Matter supports them in this important work.”
Zandra Rice Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress: “The news from Tennessee is deeply troubling. Sununu and his Republican majorities in the State House have already emboldened white nationalists and other far right actors to disrupt local school board meetings and target educators for providing students with age-appropriate curriculum regarding our nation’s history and present. Every student deserves to learn about our country’s history, good and bad, and to engage in conversations about our future. The people trying to stop these conversations are the same ones who oppose diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, including accepting and embracing all students regardless of race, gender identity, physical and mental ability, sexual orientation, and other ways in which our society routinely marginalizes people.”
Granite State Progress is a progressive advocacy organization that addresses issues of immediate state and local concern. Granite State Progress works as a communications hub for the progressive community to provide a strong, credible voice in advancing progressive solutions to critical community problems. Visit https://granitestateprogress.org/ to learn more.