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Why Did Rep. Jake Auchincloss Vote to Whitewash American History?

You’ve probably heard about the “hijacked” National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) controversy that has been all over the news since Friday. What you may not have heard is that Newton’s own Congressman Jake Auchincloss broke ranks with fellow Democrats and voted with the likes of far-right Republicans Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, and Lauren Boebert to block “race-based theories” from being taught in military-run schools. While we were glad to see that Auchincloss did not ultimately vote for the NDAA in its entirety, we are seeking an explanation as to why he chose to legitimize this particular amendment with a “yes” vote.

The amendment to ban certain “race-based theories” from being taught in K-12 military-run schools was proposed by Republican Chip Roy of Texas, a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus. Roy has previously introduced legislation to defund public schools throughout the nation that teach so-called “Critical Race Theory” (CRT) concepts, and is now attempting to assert similar control over military-run schools. Auchincloss was one of only nine Democrats (including Representative Seth Moulton of MA) to support this amendment, which was one of several amendments on culture-war issues proposed by Republicans to the traditionally bipartisan annual defense authorization bill. These Republican maneuvers have caused an outcry from Democrats, with Representative Adam Smith, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, calling them “an ode to bigotry and ignorance.”

Those of us who support racial justice and a truly inclusive society know that the Republican attempts to ban “race-based theories” in public education are really an effort to whitewash American racial history, reverse progress, and turn a blind-eye towards systemic racism and the lingering impacts of decades of racial injustice and discrimination in the U.S. Although some of the language used by Republicans in these efforts sound reasonable at face value–for example: no inherent superiority or inferiority based on race–the overall context in which the Republican party is pushing this agenda, along with its actions to roll back other civil rights gains and its apparent comfort level with white nationalism (most recently highlighted by Senator Tommy Tuberville), demonstrate that this is a purposeful Republican attempt to prohibit truthful teaching about race and racism.

This is why it is so baffling that Auchincloss voted in favor of this amendment. Roy theorized that the nine Democrats who voted to support his amendment did so because they were "feeling the heat from their own constituents." We do not believe that the majority of Auchincloss’ constituents agree with this harmful amendment. Moreover, Auchincloss’s vote directly breaks his campaign promise to “represent this district’s values on... racial justice” and “ be there in Congress on behalf of the Black community, on behalf of other historically marginalized communities.”

Auchincloss has admitted to making mistakes regarding his stance on social justice issues in the past. As we have said before, mistakes are a part of learning and we applaud when our elected leaders authentically recognize their own missteps and make amends. However, this "tough vote" (as described by Auchincloss) and its legitimization of the Republican effort to undermine racial justice gains in the U.S. gives us great pause.

Newton Upstanders plans to seek a meeting with Auchincloss to obtain more clarity on his rationale for voting yes on this amendment and to share our concerns about the implications of supporting such legislation.

If you share our concern over Jake Auchincloss’s vote and believe that his constituents deserve an explanation as to why he supported this Freedom Caucus amendment, we urge you to email him and let him know how you feel. You can also call his Newton office at (617) 332-3333.


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