As legislative bodies around the nation start convening, it is important to understand the national political climate and legislative trends. Already this year, we’ve seen several states push anti-trans bills, including prohibiting medical care for trans youth and restricting access to sports. Many advocates are predicting that throughout the year, more harmful legislation will be introduced around the country. Book bans that disproportionately target LGBTQ+ and BIPOC artists, authors, and creators are on the rise. These censorship efforts are becoming more widespread and aggressive. Recently, a Tennessee school board made national news when they removed “Maus”, a non fiction novel depicting the atrocities of the Holocaust from their curriculum.Trans and queer students are being used as political collateral and history is being erased. This cannot go on.
At school board meetings across the country, conservative groups are protesting mask mandates, so-called critical race theory, and curriculum that includes race and gender identity. Far-right, anti- LGBTQ+ groups are well organized, well-funded, and they’re winning school board elections. In the name of transparency and parental involvement, these same groups are encouraging parents and students to report teachers when they present historical perspectives that differ from some parents’ world views, creating an extremely divisive school climate..
Controlling what students learn, as well as the national narrative, comes from a desire to amass power. Communication that supports a healthy, functioning democracy must include multiple perspectives written through the lens of social justice, liberation, and power. Education, informed by our past, should challenge young minds to find solutions to our collective struggles.
Adding to the growing contention is proposed legislation aimed at voter suppression, a proliferation of gerrymandered maps, as well as attacks on reproductive freedoms. In North Carolina, legislative leadership has become increasingly contentious regarding the State Supreme Court. These obvious and desperate attempts to gain control at any cost are in reaction to a changing national demographic. Dividing Americans and turning them against one another keeps power in the hands of a few.
Recent polling shows one in six Gen Z adults are LGBTQ+. Gen Z is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation and Generation Z and Millenials are the largest combined age cohort in the nation. Less than half of the population in the United States under 15 is white. The future of this nation will look quite different from its past. Leadership that is representative of the constituents they serve remains essential to meet the current and future needs of our communities.
What are our priorities to advance lived equality in this divisive climate? Passing comprehensive national legislation that protects LGBTQ+ and BIPOC individuals from discrimination is a good place to start. Everyone should have the opportunity to thrive and safely express their full humanity, regardless of where they live. Pressuring state lawmakers to fully repeal discriminatory laws is equally important. Protecting students’ freedom to learn remains critical. All students deserve to see themselves reflected in representative materials. This is especially important now, in the face of ongoing attempts to censor curriculum, erase identities, and rewrite history. Censorship attempts negatively impact students and protecting their mental health in an already difficult environment is vital. Defending the right to vote and increasing voter engagement this year is crucial in every race. From the school board to the highest offices, we must use our voice to call out abuses of power. Electing pro equality candidates and centering community leaders who work for justice in the face of ongoing attempts to thwart progress is key.
Though there is much work still to do, we are energized and ready to continue our work with you. This work will take all of us and we appreciate your ongoing support!