Amendment is yet another attempt to whitewash American history and limit important conversations on systemic racism and sexism
CONCORD, NH – Today Republican Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley and the Senate Finance Committee voted on party lines to include the latest version of the White Supremacy Protection Act (also known as HB 544) into the state budget. The language seeks to prevent conversations about systemic racism and sexism, creating more barriers to building a strong, healthy, and equitable New Hampshire. House Republicans previously told the Senate the policy had to be included for the budget to pass. This is the fourth attempt to add the concept to a bill this session (HB 544, House budget amendment, SB 147 amendment withdrawn, Senate budget amendment).
Statements from members of the coalition in opposition to any version of HB 544:
Clifton West Jr, Executive Director of Black Lives Matter Seacoast: “Black Lives Matter Seacoast is vehemently against any version of this bill. The public made it clear during the state budget hearings that this policy has no place in our state budget. BIPOC communities in New Hampshire have faced racist attacks on all fronts and have had their history largely ignored by most entities until recently, when New Hampshire was forced to reckon with its racist history and ongoing systemic racism along with the rest of this country. Amendments like this one will prevent valuable, necessary conversations between different communities, and this silencing will, inevitably, lead to violence against BIPOC communities.”
Michelle Veasey, Executive Director, New Hampshire Businesses for Social Responsibility: “NHBSR and the over 250 workplace signatories of our original Letter of Opposition to HB 544 and its amendment to the budget, continue to stand in opposition to limits by our government, at any level, to explore, understand and develop the thought processes to address systemic racism and sexism. It is important that we do the difficult work, beginning in our schools, of addressing thinking that limits our ability to create inclusive environments. This language, wherever it resides, tarnishes our state’s reputation and our ability to remain competitive in the attraction and retention of the best workforce talent.”
Rev. Jason Wells, NH Council of Churches: “These so-called divisive concepts provisions will have a chilling effect on the humbling, honest conversations the God expects of us. Many of our churches are already having the needed conversations on racism, sexism, genocide and other difficult topics. Last year we supported a bill requiring Holocaust and Genocide Education in our public schools. Churches continue to participate in this work so that all understand the cost of silent complicity with atrocities at home and around the world. The vague language around ‘divisive concepts’ inserted into bills jeopardizes this important work.”
Megan Tuttle, President, NEA New Hampshire: “Sen. Bradley’s divisive concepts amendment is yet another attempt to whitewash American history by intimidating school teachers into avoiding important conversations about race and mischaracterizing history lessons and current event discussions on racism and sexism as some plot to undermine America. The past and the present are interconnected. It’s impossible to teach America’s history without discussing injustice, especially when present-day events mirror historical lessons. The vagueness of this amendment makes it very unclear how it will impact history lessons in New Hampshire. What is very clear, however, are the sanctions for educators who violate it – disciplinary sanction by the state board of education. Such harsh action being applied to a vaguely written statute could result in an overwhelming backlog of disciplinary hearings at the state department of education, as New Hampshire educators persevere in their commitment to prepare our students to succeed in the world. To advance real solutions, we need to address real problems. As teachers, we have opportunities to constructively address the issues of race and gender equity. These opportunities need to be seized and managed. Not muzzled and criminalized.”
Grace Kindeke, Program Coordinator, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC): “It is an embarrassing waste of time and taxpayer resources that our lawmakers continue their attempts to censor the mere mention of systemic racism and sexism when we are confronted daily with the extrajudicial murders of Black and Brown people and the devastating effects of the COVID pandemic on Black and Brown communities. While many New Hampshire communities get on with the business of working to end the systemic subordination of our communities and build a more inclusive Granite State, lawmakers continue their campaign to censor and obfuscate these truths. Public discourse and decision making is strengthened by critical analysis that challenges us to recognize and repair the barriers embedded in the policies and practices of the institutions that impact our communities. To reduce systemic racism and systemic sexism solely to the individual and interpersonal is a tactic meant to distort and deny the very real disparities experienced by people of color, disabled people, women and gender non-conforming folks. Systemic racism and sexism are divisive because of the harm they cause, not because they are uncomfortable to talk about. Our willingness to examine and discuss our history and institutional responsibilities enables us to fully realize the promises of a true multicultural and multiracial democracy. We are a state willing to have the hard conversations in order to ensure that every person regardless of race or gender has the resources they need to flourish and thrive.”
Maggie Fogarty, Program Director, American Friends Services Committee (AFSC): “What senators needed to do was remove the harmful proposal in its entirety; there was no good reason to attempt to preserve any part of it. The amended language maintains the intention of the original proposal: to mute the conversations and the learning that are essential to building a just society where all people are treated with dignity and respect. This proposal will make our communities weaker, not stronger. How can we move forward in love and justice if we compromise on the basic principle that the truth must be told?”
NH Legislative Youth Advisory Council: “The maxim of ‘Live Free or Die’ is integral to the Granite State’s values, yet this bill would limit freedom of speech under the First Amendment by restricting our ability to discuss the discrimination and inequalities that are entrenched in our society. We strongly urge elected officials to oppose the inclusion of this language in the state budget so we can work towards a world where diversity, equity, and inclusion are each a reality for all individuals. This cannot happen if we ignore systemic inequalities, if we prevent civic discourse, if we create a culture where educational institutions are no longer places where we can learn and discuss about our nation’s unvarnished past and present so we can work towards a better future.”
Rob Werner, New Hampshire State Director of the League of Conservation Voters: “The League of Conservation Voters firmly opposes any attempt to divide Americans by ignoring our shared history. We need an honest discussion about structural racism, historic wrongs, and ensuring a better future for all. Any HB 544 language currently included in the state budget must be removed by the State Senate and simply cannot be tolerated.”
Cora Quisumbing-King and Sumathi Madhure, Co-Chairs of the NH AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) Democrats: “The NH AAPI Democrats strongly oppose any version of HB 544, which would restrict education on measures to end racism and sexism endured by Granite Staters. The history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders has been largely untaught in school classrooms. This lack of education has created systemic barriers to the cultural acceptance of our communities. Our communities will undoubtedly be harmed by this dangerous and unpopular language.”
Sarah Jane Knoy, Executive Director, Granite State Organizing Project: “As a faith based organization, our members have been particularly sickened to see the words of Rev. Martin Luther King used to support this appalling proposal. Let us be very clear: the inequitable outcomes experienced by people of color in New Hampshire are the result of structural racism that is baked into our institutions. As people of faith and goodwill, we must be willing to talk about the past and to learn from our history. I am further shocked by the undemocratic shenanigans certain members of the Legislature are engaging in in order to silence these important conversations.”
James Duffy, Monadnock Interfaith Project: “Proposing to suppress certain facts of our collective histories, because those facts are seen by the proponents of this bill to be ‘divisive concepts,’ that may be painful to certain people, chills not only the spine, but the heart of our democracy. Instead of limiting discussion, let’s commit to deep reflection, hard conversations, and changing practices and policies in all our institutions to move beyond racism and sexism. Together we as a society can grow with trust, faith, compassion, and love.”
Asma Elhuni, Movement Politics Director, Rights and Democracy NH (RAD): The “Divisive Concepts” amendment is a real threat to Granite Staters and our democracy. The sponsors of this bill have publicly denied systemic racism, despite facts such as that in New Hampshire women make 74 cents to every dollar a man makes, and the Black community is 1.7 percent of the NH population but make up 7% of those in prison and jail. Make no mistake, the real reason bills like this have been introduced in state houses all over the country is there is an orchestrated attempt by far right political think tanks, bankrolled by ultra wealthy elites, to stop the momentum of progress towards racial and gender justice. These attempts to pit us against each other is an effort to distract us so they can continue to hoard massive amounts of resources. We recognize that we can not honor the human rights of everyone, if we can not address the racist and sexist practices that disproportionately affect our communities and ultimately hurt all of us. Granite Staters have said they want to have these hard conversations so our communities and our country can heal and we can truly have a multiracial democracy, where Black, Brown, and White people can thrive.”
Zandra Rice Hawkins, Executive Director, Granite State Progress: “This push from national far right actors seeks to silence conversations about systemic racism and sexism, creating more barriers to a strong, healthy, and equitable New Hampshire. Sen. Bradley’s amendment is a sad endorsement of far-right conspiracy theories. This is an effort to legislate a problem that does not exist but that has become the boogeyman of far-right actors set on disrupting any substantive progress on racial justice. Governor Chris Sununu is complicit for staying silent here while his colleagues try to block the racial justice conversations our country so desperately needs to have.”
David Holt, Organizer, Occupy NH Seacoast: “As a lifetime Granite Stater, and an activist and organizer, I am affronted and ashamed that New Hampshire legislators are using their positions in government to promote racism and hatred. I have been an organizer with Occupy NH Seacoast for over a decade fighting for the social and economic equality which this language endangers. We can not overcome the challenges of racism and other forms of discrimination when we cannot openly and honestly speak about them.”
Sherry Frost and Robin Vogt, Co-Chairs of the New Hampshire Progressive Coalition: “The Executive Board of the NH Progressive Coalition, on which sits three educators licensed by the State of New Hampshire, strongly objects to the insertion of “divisive concepts” language into any bill. Not only does this move constitute an unethical end-run around the regular legislative process, the language itself seeks to stifle the free speech of teachers and the educational opportunities of all learners. Legislators have no business telling professional educators how to frame their lessons; in fact, it should be in the State’s interest to protect the teaching of true history and the ability of students and teachers to speak freely about complex and nuanced subjects. We reject in its entirety the language and intent of the ‘divisive concepts’ bill in any form it takes and in any bill into which the NHGOP tries to sneak it.”
Meghan Daigneau, member of Rights and Democracy (RAD) NH “To deny systemic racism and sexism is to deny history itself. Any version of HB 544 alienates women and people of color in New Hampshire. As a proud, lifelong Laconian, I know that this is not the New Hampshire way.”
The language is heavily opposed across the state by a broad coalition of doctors, business and industry, faith leaders, college professors, elected officials, and racial justice advocates.
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.