NEW ORLEANS – The ACLU of Louisiana released the following statement in response to Representative Ray Garofalo’s removal as Chairman of the House Committee on Education. In April, the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus asked House Speaker Clay Schexnayder to remove Garofalo as chair after he sponsored a bill that would have censored discussions about race in Louisiana classrooms. Yesterday, Garofalo issued a press release titled “Republican Speaker Chooses Black Democrats Over Fellow Republican Chairman.”

This statement can be attributed to ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director Alanah Odoms.

“It is no accident that the same representative who suggested our school children learn the ‘good’ parts about slavery also chose to blame Chairman Ted James, and more specifically, the Black Caucus for his removal from leadership as the Chair of the Education Committee. Rep. Garofalo led the effort to censor undisputed historical facts about our nation’s founding and its reliance on the enslavement of black people from the early 17th century until 1865 when slavery was abolished. The statement Rep. Garofalo released yesterday – blaming Black people for his removal instead of taking responsibility for his offensive and harmful behavior – is deeply concerning coming from a person who serves in a leadership role responsible for stewarding education for every child in this state.

“Ray Garofalo’s failed attempt to whitewash American history and dissemble historical events that would point to the nation’s incestuous relationship with human bondage eliminates any meaningful chance we have to address systemic racism in our nation. Contrary to Rep. Garofalo’s claims, critical race theory is crucial to raising awareness of the systemic barriers and discrimination people of color – and other marginalized groups – still face across nearly every institution, including housing, education, criminal justice, finance, healthcare and more. Teaching our kids the origins of these inequities is not divisive, it is essential.  Moreover, unity across racial groups only flows from an acknowledgement of past harms and a willingness to redress those harms together. 

The ACLU of Louisiana urges our lawmakers to use this moment as an opportunity to fully acknowledge that systemic racism exists; and that racism harms ALL people, not just the marginalized. By way of analogy, just as an individual should not reasonably conceal from a physician an illness in hopes that it would remain undetected and resolve on its own, this nation cannot continue to willfully conceal the cancer of racism that has metastasized. In order to move forward, our state must reckon with the truth of our past, identify the harms that persist as a result of this history, and finally, commit to addressing the myriad present-day impacts of racial discrimination. As the first step, this must include a wholehearted willingness to teach unadulterated American history, in an age-appropriate manner, to our children in schools.”