Editor’s Letter: All conversations about HB 616 *MUST* begin with race

This bill starts with race. It ends with race. And it is critical that we not subtract race from the conversation.

If your posts about HB 616 are not beginning with–or even mentioning!–race, then you’re doing it wrong. 

“Don’t Say Gay” is a catchy slogan and makes for eye-grabbing hashtags and headlines. Heck, we’ve used it here at The Buckeye Flame.

“Don’t Say Gay” is also incredibly reductive. 

HB 616 is not a bill solely about sexual orientation. It doesn’t even lead with that. 

At the very start of the legislative language, the bill aims to ban school districts from selecting “any textbook, instructional material, or academic curriculum that promotes any divisive or inherently racist concepts” including:

  • Critical Race Theory
  • Intersectional theory
  • The 1619 project
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion learning outcomes
  • Inherited racial guilt
  • Any other concept that the state board of education defines as divisive or inherently racist

HB 616 is attempting to legislate race out of any and all school curricula. Nowhere is the word “divisive” defined and it is left instead to school boards comprised of members who often lack a background in pedagogical theory, psychology, or historical narrative. 

This is not to say that HB 616 doesn’t ban conversations about sexual orientation. It does. 

But when we post solely about that piece of the bill, we are–ironically–avoiding and suppressing the very type of intersectionality that this bill is attempting to outlaw. 

For example:

Let’s post about HB 616 far and wide. Let’s write our legislators and tell them that they are not representing the will of Ohioans. Let’s reach out to our local businesses and those that might want to move their operations into Ohio – Hello, Intel! – and ask them to please use their considerable influence to take a stand against this bill. Collective voice and power is the move here.

But in taking action against HB 616, let’s please not forget that this is a bill designed to literally whitewash education and deny the lived existence of so many of our siblings. 

This bill starts with race. It ends with race. And it is critical that we not subtract race from the conversation.  

My thanks to my Black colleagues who took the time and emotional labor to speak with me about this topic. 

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