Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday Rep. Ray Garofalo’s statement that Louisiana’s public schools should be required to teach the “good” of slavery when discussing race is “egregious enough to warrant his removal” as chair of the state House Education Committee. “But I’m also the first to tell you I’m not the one who makes that decision,” the governor said.
“I think it’s obvious and incontrovertible that he made some very unfortunate statements that have caused a significant number of his colleagues to lose faith in (Garofalo),” Edwards said during a press conference. “And it’s my understanding that those colleagues span both sides of the aisle.”
Speaker of the House Clay Schexnayder decides who heads each committee.
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 to the Education Committee 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.”
The Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus called for his removal as chair of the committee Wednesday.
Garofalo said on the House floor Wednesday that his statement in support of HB564 was taken out of context. The committee voted to involuntarily defer Garofalo’s bill Tuesday, but the committee deadlocked at 7-7. Garofalo voluntarily shelved it.
“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 Wednesday.
Helena Moreno, New Orleans City Council president, wrote a letter to Garofalo Wednesday saying, “If you feel that there is ‘good’ in slavery, you should resign immediately.”
Moreno also said the content and objective of Garofalo’s HB 564 is racist and sexist and “would intentionally stunt the educational growth of generations of Louisiana’s elementary and secondary school students, as well as university students, using Orwellian means to ban trainings or instruction.”
“To be clear: this amounts to a state-sanctified muzzle on the freedom to teach the realities of white supremacy, racism and sexism,” Moreno said in her letter.
Garofalo responded to Moreno’s letter Thursday with a letter of his own, writing “you did not investigate the facts or chose to ignore them.”
“The facts clearly show that I not only clarified the clearly boiler-plate exemplary statement, but I immediately went on to absolutely state that ‘I didn’t mean to imply that, I don’t believe that, and I know that that’s the case’ that there was no good in slavery. ‘I was using the good-bad-ugly term as a generic way of saying that you can teach any factually based’ history,” Garofalo wrote.