A conservative white student at the University of Mississippi Law School described the state’s sole critical race theory (CRT) class as “the most impactful and enlightening course” she’s ever taken.
Brittany Murphree, from Rankin County, Mississippi, a second-year law student at Ole Miss, recently penned a letter to Mississippi lawmakers about the CRT course she’s taking after the Republican-controlled state Senate passed a new bill aimed at banning the discussion of CRT in K-12 schools and universities.
Mississippi is one of several Republican states that have begun drafting legislation tackling CRT in schools in response to the racial justice protests of 2020, which has demanded America’s education system reevaluate the way it teaches history.
“To date, this course has been the most impactful and enlightening course I have taken throughout my entire undergraduate career and graduate education at the State of Mississippi’s flagship university,” Murphree wrote to the Mississippi House Education Committee, according to a copy of the letter obtained by Mississippi Today‘s Molly Minta.
The national battle over CRT has exploded in the last year as conservatives began advocating for parental rights in K-12 curriculum and want to see it banned from classrooms. Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn are among the state’s GOP leaders who have publicly advocated against CRT.
On January 21, after every Black senator walked out of the chamber in protest, the state senate voted to pass SB 2113. The bill would forbid schools, community colleges and universities from teaching “that any sex, race, ethnicity, religion or national origin is inherently superior or inferior.” It is now on its way to the House.
Murphree, who says she has not heard back from any lawmakers at this time, told Minta: “The party I associate with just doesn’t even know what the truth about this class is.”
“Why are they so fearful of people just theorizing and just thinking,” she said. “We’re not going to turn into, like, communists. Y’all chill out.”
Murphree was formerly the president of her high school’s Teenage Republicans of Mississippi chapter and has previously interned for Republican Governor Phil Bryant.
Her county is also among the state’s prominent Republican strongholds. Rankin County overwhelmingly voted for former President Donald Trump, with more than 72 percent of residents casting their ballot for the Republican candidate. Murphree herself has also voted for Trump in the past.
But despite her political affiliation, Murphree disagrees with many of her fellow Republicans who want to ban CRT from schools.
“The prohibition of courses and teachings such as these is taking away the opportunity for people from every background and race to come together and discuss very important topics which would otherwise go undiscussed,” Murphree wrote in her letter.
“I believe this bill not only undermines the values of the hospitality state but declares that Mississippians are structured in hate and rooted in a great deal of ignorance,” she added.
The law student said she decided to take “Law 743: Critical Race Theory” this semester after wanting to understand what CRT really entailed, adding that many of her friends and family did not approve of her decision to take the class.
In the 13-person class, Murphree is one of four white students.
She said it’s been frustrating to see fellow conservatives thrust CRT into the national spotlight as something it is not, but said she understands why many of the people she grew up with are worried about its teachings.
“Here in the Bible Belt, people ride on the fact that they’re a good person, they go to church on Sunday, they give money to the poor, so they could never imagine being called a racist,” Murphree said.
She said even if CRT is banned from classrooms, it wouldn’t inoculate students from seeing racism happen in their everyday lives.
“I could just look around and see people in my [high school] class, and I could see the racial divide and how people literally said the n-word,” Murphree said. “Nobody had to teach me things. I saw it in my life.”