5 Big Questions: Alabama Rep. Ed Oliver

Rep. Oliver has pre-filed a bill that would prohibit state agencies and contractors from teaching Critical Race Theory.

He tells Campus Reform, "The speech that you ought to protect is the speech that you hate the most.”

Alabama State Rep. Ed Oliver is taking a stand against Critical Race Theory in a bill he has put forward for the state’s next legislative session. House Bill Nine, pre-filed in late June, would ban any state agency or contractor from teaching Critical Race Theory concepts. The bill would also require the Alabama Department of Labor to review all of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training materials for state government agencies. 

Oliver says he has crafted the bill to prioritize free speech and academic freedom. He told Campus Reform, “We’re trying to stop indoctrination. We’re not saying you can’t teach anything in a class or discuss anything like adults. The First Amendment is critical to me, and I do believe that the speech that you ought to protect is the speech that you hate the most.”

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Though the bill applies to all state agencies and the contractors they work with, Oliver says he is particularly concerned about Critical Race Theory in higher education. He says, “We’ve created a whole generation of kids that got a participation trophy. They do not understand what meritocracy means. And not all kids, there are a lot of good kids in the world. But I know that I look at our flagship university here and I’m very, very concerned.”

Oliver says he speaks regularly to around 60 faculty members who are supporting his bill. He says, “Some of them are left of center. They understand how dangerous this is for this country to succeed.” It was complaints from his constituents that first sparked Oliver’s concern over Critical Race Theory. 

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The bill bans teaching “divisive concepts” that have historically been favored by critical race theorists, including the idea that America is a racist country, meritocracy is oppressive, and that an individual can bear blame for wrongs of the past based on their race or sex. Oliver says, “It doesn’t interfere with First Amendment or teaching any particular thing in a class it just says we don’t adopt it as doctrine and we don’t indoctrinate our children – or our adults.”

Oliver sees hypocrisy in how critical race theorists talk about certain concepts, including Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). He said, of DEI, “Any time you see that anywhere, it means exactly the opposite.” 

He tells Campus Reform that he is hopeful the bill will come up for a floor vote soon after the state legislature reconvenes in mid-January. 

Follow the interviewer on Twitter: @AngelaLMorabito