The Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus called Wednesday for Rep. Ray Garofalo to be removed as chair of the Louisiana House Education Committee after he said Tuesday public schools in the state should be required to teach the “good” of slavery when discussing race.
In support of his bill that would have banned lessons that assert that the U.S. or the state “is fundamentally, institutionally, or systemically racist or sexist,” Garofalo, a Chalmette Republican, argued Tuesday, “If you’re teaching, if you’re having a discussion on whatever the case may be, on slavery, then you can talk about everything dealing with slavery. The good, the bad, the ugly.”
Rep. Ted James, a Baton Rouge Democrat who serves as chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, said in a press release that Garofalo’s bill itself includes divisive, insensitive, and racist elements.
“An apology is not enough,” James wrote. “The defense of systemic racism throughout our country is unarguably an issue, and the language of this proposal alone is enough to offend those of us working toward change.”
“He’s disqualified himself from leadership,” Rep. Gary Carter (D-Algiers), another member of the caucus, told the Illuminator. “He has no moral authority, and he can’t lead us into the future.”
Garofalo said on the House floor Wednesday that his statement in support of HB564 was taken out of context.
“The media is totally reporting this inflammatorily against me… I would hope that you would know better than the reports that are being made about me in the press,” he said.
Garofalo said he’s received backlash on social media following his statement on slavery. “I’ve taken my Facebook page down, and I don’t think that anyone should be treated like this,” he said.
Garofalo said he’d be happy to talk to any House members who have any questions about what he said.
“This is a matter of personal integrity for me. This is nothing that I ever intended to happen, nor do I want it to happen,” the chairman said.
Carter moved to involuntarily defer Garofalo’s bill Tuesday, but the committee deadlocked at 7-7. Garofalo said he’d voluntarily shelve it.
He wrote HB 564 after becoming upset that LSU’s Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs has been hosting an ongoing series of panels called “Racism: Dismantling the System.” In a February letter to Louisiana Higher Education Commissioner Kim Hunter-Reed, Garofalo asked what system needs dismantling. He was particularly upset by a panel that month that featured two Black LSU professors and another Black professor from Syracuse University discussing a book they co-edited called “The Religion of White Rage: White Workers, Religious Fervor, and the Myth of Black Racial Progress.”
Louisiana teachers, representatives of STAR (Sexual Trauma and Awareness), the NAACP, and the LSU student government all spoke in opposition to Garafol’s bill. Rep. Mark Wright (R-Covington) said the committee received seven email messages supporting the bill and 107 opposed.