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Clergy members condemn Rokita’s remarks on Black Lives Matter, equity in schools

By Jeanie Lindsay, IPB News | Published on in Education, Government, Politics, Statewide News
Some schools have taken down Black Lives Matter signs in recent months, after some pushback about displaying them in classrooms and school hallways. (Justin Hicks/IPB News)

Some religious leaders are condemning Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita’s latest published remarks discussing Black Lives Matter in schools and issues like critical race theory. They say it’s fanning the flames of division, and ignoring longstanding problems for underserved students instead of empowering families.

Rokita has talked a lot about schools lately – updating his so-called “Parent Bill of Rights” this week, discussing issues from COVID-19 health protocols in schools and vaccines, to critical race theory and equity. Rokita also recently issued a formal advisory opinion on whether schools should treat Black Lives Matter as a political organization after two state lawmakers asked that he weigh in.

But Rev. David W. Greene Sr., president of the Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis, said Rokita’s published remarks about racial equity and Black Lives Matter are racist. He said Rokita’s ongoing criticisms of how schools talk about race and equity are rooted in misinformation, and undermine efforts to support all students and diversify the teaching workforce.

“They are divisive, while he’s trying to claim that he’s trying to keep that from happening – his remarks are offensive to those of us who are people of color,” he said. “We know a dog whistle, we know language that is not really meant for Black and Brown people.”

Greene said Black teachers specifically won’t feel empowered to work in a state that seems interested in limiting how they talk about their own experiences or cultural history in their classrooms.

Greene and other civic and religious leaders signed onto a formal letter in response to Rokita’s advisory opinion on Black Lives Matter last week. It said, in part, that Indianapolis shouldn’t host major sporting events with the NBA or NFL if the state continues to push against diversity and equity efforts.

“It is extremely ironic for Attorney General Rokita and other legislators to believe that Black Lives Matter and any other organizations raising racial equity issues should not be part of the educational process,” the letter said. “To have these sports that are made up of majority minorities to be coming to a State that is against Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is hypocritical.”

Greene and others said children need a well-rounded education that doesn’t bend to any one particular ideology, and that Rokita should focus more on what students want from school too.

Contact reporter Jeanie at jlindsa@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @jeanjeanielindz.