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Update on our Meeting with Congressman Jake Auchincloss


On Monday, representatives from Newton Upstanders and Progressive Newton met with Congressman Jake Auchincloss to discuss our concern over his recent support of a far-right Republican attempt to “whitewash” American history in military-run schools. While we appreciate that Auchincloss made the time to meet with us–especially on such short notice–we remain deeply troubled over his vote and its impact.


Last week, we learned that Newton’s Rep. Jake Auchincloss voted YES for a troubling amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This amendment, proposed by Republican and House Freedom Caucus member Chip Roy of Texas, prohibits instruction related to certain “race-based theories” in military-run K-12 schools for the families of service members throughout the world. Roy’s amendment also had the dubious distinction as being one of a suite of amendments that have been described as “an ode to bigotry and ignorance” by Representative Adam Smith, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.


Alarmed by Congressman Auchincloss’ vote, we issued this statement and requested a meeting with him to learn more about his reasons for voting YES and to share the problematic implications of his vote. In our meeting, Auchincloss confirmed the substance of his previous statements to Business Insider and POLITICO’s Massachusetts Playbook and highlighted his NO votes on other far-right amendments. As we understood him, Auchincloss supported Roy’s amendment because he agreed that it is appropriate to restrict instruction of the six race-based theories specified in Roy’s amendment and he thought the amendment was “tightly constructed.”


Our concern is that Auchincloss’ interpretation of Roy's amendment takes its language at face value, failing to see it within the context of the far right’s assault on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts in the U.S. Thirty-six states have already passed or proposed legislation to limit teaching about race and racism and GOP pressure has resulted in the gutting of the Department of Defense Education Activity’s DEI unit.


What’s more, the far-right’s manufactured crisis misrepresents “Critical Race Theory” (CRT) as a radical, extremist ideology that includes harmful discussions about race or racism, divisive concepts, and shaming of white students. CRT has become a right-wing catch-all for efforts to teach about race and racism in a way that reflects a range of perspectives and explores the complicated and difficult truths about our nation’s founding and history. In reality, CRT is a legal theory of scholarship that is explored in college and graduate level classes and is not being taught in K-12 schools. Efforts like Roy’s amendment, which is a self-proclaimed ban on CRT are clearly thinly-veiled efforts to eliminate DEI programs aimed at addressing racial inequities in the military and its schools.


The implications of Auchincloss’ vote were clear to Rep. Chip Roy, who tweeted his thanks to the nine Democrats who broke ranks with their party and voted with the Freedom Caucus amendment.

 

While we do appreciate Auchincloss meeting with us to learn about our concerns, we were deeply disappointed to confirm what appears to be a significant difference of opinion regarding the potential impact of Roy’s amendment. Further, we remain concerned about the way in which Auchincloss’ vote provides legitimacy to the Freedom Caucus’s attack on truthful and nuanced education about race and racism in the U.S.


Unfortunately, this isn’t Auchincloss' first misstep with respect to insensitivity towards certain communities. We encourage him to take steps to gain a deeper understanding of the enduring impacts of systemic racism and what he can do as a leader to address racial injustice in our society. Although there may be some loud voices within Newton and within our congressional district that oppose community efforts towards diversity, equity, inclusion, and racial justice, we believe that the majority of Newton and our neighbors understand that teaching the complex truth about our history only strengthens us as we move towards a more just and equitable future.


To better understand the legal implications of Roy's amendment from those immediately impacted, we recommend that he reach out to the DoDEA administrators committed to DEI and to educators in those schools. Many of these administrators and educators have faced backlash and retaliation for standing up for those principles and would have first-hand knowledge of the repercussions and chilling effect of legal restrictions on education about race and racism in classrooms.


If you agree that it’s important that our Congressional Representative stands firm against right-wing attacks on the progress we have made and continue to work towards as a nation regarding social justice, we encourage you to contact Rep. Jake Auchincloss and let him know.


As for Newton Upstanders, our next step is to reach out to Senator Edward J. Markey and Senator Elizabeth Warren, who will be considering the Senate version of the NDAA, to share our concerns about Republican efforts to include “culture-war” strings attached to funding for our military.


In Solidarity,


Newton Upstanders Core Team

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