MSNBC’s Katie Phang Accuses GOP of Trying to Bury Black History

On Thursday’s The Beat on MSNBC, fill-in host Katie Phang devoted a segment to promoting the fake news that Republican governors like Ron DeSantis are preventing black history from being taught in schools even though the curriculum he adopted requires the teaching of black history, including the parts that involve slavery.

Phang loaded the segment with hyperbole as she fearmongered that teachers could be arrested “simply for teaching history” or for “simply telling the truth,” and even cracked: “It sounds like it’s going to get to the point where you can’t be black and actually physically be in a classroom at this rate.”

This installment of fake news began with a clip of author Toni Morrison from 1982 claiming that whites were trying to stop their children from being allowed to read certain things, leading Phang to use it to set up the discussion: “But those words, they ring true decades later as today marks the first day of Black History Month, and many educators across the country are grappling with restrictions on how they can teach it, if at all. So far, 17 states have enacted laws restricting how teachers can discuss race in the classroom.”

She added:

GOP governor Ron DeSantis leading the way here in Florida with the most aggressive legislation with teachers facing jail time for simply teaching the truth. One Florida teacher telling Axios that they’re approaching teaching black history, quote, “carefully,” because, quote, “no one wants to be fired.” So its all part of a broader right-wing push to whitewash American history, a blatant refusal to come to terms with racism in America.

After playing several clips of conservatives discussing the issue of black history, Phang brought aboard radical Rutgers professor Brittney Cooper. The MSNBC host began by posing:

Professor, I get pretty mad when I watch that. It’s a combination, right? I’m mad, I’m angry, but I’m sad that that — this is a conversations (sic) we’ve been having now for God knows how long. I wanted to get your thoughts on this ongoing push to restrict black history in the classroom. It sounds like it’s going to get to the point where you can’t be black and actually physically be in a classroom at this rate.

Cooper portrayed black Americans as being deliberately deprived of education as she began her response:

Listen, that thing has been true for our history in America longer than the idea that we have been able to read — have been able to be in a classroom. Our default position in our country is that black people are not worthy of education, that they don’t get a chance to read, that they don’t have the life chances that other folks have — and I think the thing we should recognize is that is what Ron DeSantis is trying to do. So he wants an undereducated citizenry so that he can control them. This push on the right is designed to take away our ability to understand ourselves in history so that we are doomed to repeat that history.

The two then continued pushing misinformation, claiming that conservative leaders do not want children to be taught about bad things that were done against blacks in the past:

PHANG: The problem I’m seeing is how they’re actually legalizing this. They’re making it so that, for example, you have bills where you can’t have these conversations, Professor, where the teachers are fearing backlash by way of being fired or, you know, losing their jobs — maybe even getting arrested for simply teaching history because the reality is they don’t want us to learn about the sins of the father, right?

COOPER: That’s right. They don’t want us to learn about the sins of the father, the mother, the whole family. They don’t want us to learn about the sins of the state apparatus.

Cooper soon claimed: “These folks want to take us towards a place where they build a world that is just for them and not for anybody who doesn’t look like them. And that is what this assault on books is all about.”

PS: Cooper is the same kook who suggested white people should be eliminated: 

Transcript follows:

MSNBC’s The Beat

February 1, 2024

6:41 p.m. Eastern

TONI MORRISON, AUTHOR (dated 1982): The same sensibilities that informed those people to make it a criminal act for black people to read are the ancestors of the same people who are making it a criminal act for their own children to read. And I don’t see a great deal of difference between them.

KATIE PHANG: That was acclaimed author Toni Morrison on the history of censorship in education in 1982. But those words, they ring true decades later as today marks the first day of Black History Month, and many educators across the country are grappling with restrictions on how they can teach it, if at all. So far, 17 states have enacted laws restricting how teachers can discuss race in the classroom. GOP governor Ron DeSantis leading the way here in Florida with the most aggressive legislation with teachers facing jail time for simply teaching the truth. One Florida teacher telling Axios that they’re approaching teaching black history, quote, “carefully,” because, quote, “no one wants to be fired.” So its all part of a broader right-wing push to whitewash American history, a blatant refusal to come to terms with racism in America.

CHARLIE KIRK (from The Charlie Kirk Show): I don’t think there should be a Black History Month.

GOVERNOR RON DeSANTIS (R-FL) (from Fox News Channel): That particular passage wasn’t saying that slavery was a benefit. It was saying there was resourcefulness, and people acquired skills in spite of slavery.

JOHNNIE JOEY JONES (from Fox News Channel): The word “racism” is almost extinct now because we can’t discern true racism from wokeness. Wokeness is racism in and of itself.

JESSE WATTERS (from Fox News Channel): It’s all activism. It’s all ideology. It’s no history.

GOVERNOR SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS (R-AR): We cannot perpetuate a lie to our students and push this propaganda leftist agenda teaching our kids to hate America.

PHANG: Joining me now is Brittney Cooper, professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Africana Studies at Rutgers University. Professor, I get pretty mad when I watch that. It’s a combination, right? I’m mad, I’m angry, but I’m sad that that — this is a conversations (sic) we’ve been having now for God knows how long. I wanted to get your thoughts on this ongoing push to restrict black history in the classroom. It sounds like it’s going to get to the point where you can’t be black and actually physically be in a classroom at this rate.

BRITTNEY COOPER, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY: Listen, that thing has been true for our history in America longer than the idea that we have been able to read — have been able to be in a classroom. Our default position in our country is that black people are not worthy of education, that they don’t get a chance to read, that they don’t have the life chances that other folks have — and I think the thing we should recognize is that is what Ron DeSantis is trying to do. So he wants an undereducated citizenry so that he can control them.

PHANG: Yup.

COOPER: This push on the right is designed to take away our ability to understand ourselves in history so that we are doomed to repeat that history.

PHANG: So what’s the solution, then? Right? Because I like coming to the table with a solution. The problem I’m seeing is how they’re actually legalizing this. They’re making it so that, for example, you have bills where you can’t have these conversations, Professor, where the teachers are fearing backlash by way of being fired or, you know, losing their jobs — maybe even getting arrested for simply teaching history because the reality is they don’t want us to learn about the sins of the father, right?

COOPER: That’s right. They don’t want us to learn about the sins of the father, the mother, the whole family. They don’t want us to learn about the sins of the state apparatus. So first let me say that the way that I learned black history was because my family members made a concerted effort to make sure that I had a library card, and, when they had access to books, they sent me books. So we’re going to have to have a concerted push to make sure that young people have library cards and they go to the public library, and we don’t have to concede this ground, right? We have to have people running for school boards and determining policy. We have to have parents showing up the school board meetings and reminding them that protecting this narrative — this whitewashed narrative for children — like educating white children — under-educating white children doesn’t save anybody either. It doesn’t actually make the life of any American child better.

And it is amazing to me that in a country where we have literacy rates where most Americans read at a sixth grade level — 54 percent of Americans read at a sixth grade level — that we think that the solution and the thing that we need to be doing is bringing less books, less knowledge, less stories. But it’s also part of this insidious campaign not simply to whitewash history but really to wipe black and brown folks off the map. The way that you communicate that its people are not valuable is you tell them that their stories don’t matter. You tell them that they are not worthy to see themselves in the place that they spend most of their time. School is where children spend most of their time. And the idea that they would be there and that they don’t get stories about their own experience is something that should appall us all. It is a thing that creates society where we have less empathy — less ability to actually correct injustice — less ability to dream about what freedom could actually look like.

And that is the point. These folks want to take us towards a place where they build a world that is just for them and not for anybody who doesn’t look like them. And that is what this assault on books is all about. But I fundamentally believe in the power of the people. It wasn’t so long ago, Katie, that you and I were in school and that we didn’t get to read lots of diverse books. I didn’t read lots of black history as a child growing up in the ’80s and ’90s in this country, but I had a community. I had a community — I had parents — I had aunties — I had teachers who made sure that I knew about other kinds of readings and knew where to go get them. And so we don’t have to take this. We can continue to take our children to the library and continue to give them books, and, for my part, I’m writing books for children. … But I write books for children, and I write books for children because that is my contribution, right? One of the ways we can do this is we’ve got to all commit to telling the most diverse stories that we possibly can.

PHANG: And, to your point, Professor Brittney Cooper, they’re not going to erase us. We’re not going anywhere. So thank you for being here, and thanks for writing those children’s books. That’s important — I appreciate you.

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