Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) may be the next leader in critical race theory (CRT) integration into classrooms. Their “Equity Roadmap” largely originated with MNPS’s newest Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Executive Officer, Ashford Hughes Sr. (pictured above) – a big CRT advocate and outspoken anti-racist.
Hughes served previously as the Chief DEI Officer for Nashville Mayor John Cooper from February 2018 until October 2019. During that time, Hughes submitted a report that was also called a “roadmap” to achieve DEI throughout all of Metro Nashville – the “DEI Roadmap.”
In this report, Hughes claimed that systemic barriers were preventing marginalized groups from full participation in Metro government. Although the roadmap doesn’t expressly mention CRT, it is clearly informed by it.
CRT establishes that structural racism exists in all aspects of society, which leads to inequality and inequity. Its proponents uphold race as the answer to and reason for everything within ideologies, policies, and institutions. Race is also used as a metric of success – for example, the racial makeup of employees hired is weighted as heavily as skill or ability, if not more so in some cases.
Hughes’ DEI Roadmap focuses mainly on race and ethnicity. It urged Metro government to require cultural proficiency of its employees, modify its hiring practices to match the demographic makeup of the community, and expand opportunities specifically for minority and women-owned businesses.
Several months after he published the roadmap, Hughes declared that racism is a public health crisis. He noted that action needed to be taken, especially with the youth.
“[H]ere are my solutions: 1. Mayor publicly declare a city public health crisis alongside of Health Department, MNPS, council, Gov’t officials, grassroots orgs. 2. Convene these groups and map out a countywide strategic plan to address access to opportunities for black and brown youth,” wrote Hughes.
We as a city must begin to see value in the lives of these young people. We must see value in the communities in which the eat, sleep and play. We FIRST must acknowledge the situation for what it is; a public health crisis. A crisis of hopelessness. A crisis of racial inequity.
— Ashford Hughes Sr. (@ashfordhughes) November 6, 2019
Hughes has been forthright about his support of CRT. Especially the ideology’s influence on his work.
Last March, Hughes indicated that he would attempt to continue to further his attempts to expand his DEI Roadmap.
Hughes was hired by MNPS last June.
In December, Hughes hinted at what the Equity Roadmap would entail. The terms pictured in their workgroup slides present the same bloated definition of racism as CRT. Rather than the original meaning of racism – the hatred of individuals and belief of an inherent superiority based on race – the slides rely on the modern interpretation that any inequalities between races are signs of racism.
The slides declared the realities of structural racism (racial bias as systemically baked into institutions and society, giving White people privileges exclusively), institutional racism (organizational advantages present in treatments, policies, or practices reserved exclusively for White people), and interpersonal racism (slurs, biases, or hateful words or actions). Those are all main tenets of CRT.
The slides also declared that the goal isn’t for individuals to not be racist. Rather, the goal is to be “antiracist,” which is defined as the active rejection of White supremacy, “White-dominant culture,” and unequal institutions and society.
“Key working terminology to address our @MetroSchools Equity in Education efforts. Other essential items for this work: Racial Equity, Cultural Representation, White Privilege, Race,” wrote Hughes. “Our student, our city can’t wait.”
Key working terminology to address our @MetroSchools Equity in Education efforts. Other essential terms for this work: Racial Equity, Cultural Representation, White Privilege, Race. Dr. Billings was amazing. Fired up! Ready to go! Our student, our city can’t wait. @RaceResearch pic.twitter.com/1Vnf6RELTj
— Ashford Hughes Sr. (@ashfordhughes) December 5, 2020
Hughes indicated that CRT would shape his leadership style for creating equitable education.
“Self reflection and organizational reflection is a key element to the Theory of Change for creating more equitable learning institutions and environments,” wrote Hughes.
Self reflection and organizational reflection is a key element to the Theory of Change for creating more equitable learning institutions and environments. Learning and reflection doesn’t take place in one meeting or training alone but with consistency over a continuum of time. pic.twitter.com/WNt7dmtWmN
— Ashford Hughes Sr. (@ashfordhughes) December 11, 2020
According to Hughes, one of the “most helpful and resourceful education equity networks in the country” for him as of late is the Building Equitable Learning Environments Library (BELE Network). Choice resources within this library include guidebooks outlining starting points for any school’s equity journey, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance contributions (now known as Learning for Justice), and documents advocating that race be the center of conversations. Many of these resources specifically identify White people in some regard, sometimes as the source and perpetuator of oppression, disadvantages, and racism experienced by minorities.
Hughes announced at the beginning of the year that he and MNPS were working on the Equity Roadmap. Posts concerning this project didn’t offer further details of what policies and practices MNPS would include on the roadmap.
Shortly after, MNPS promised to release additional information on the Equity Roadmap in January. That information hasn’t been published yet.
Last month, Hughes shared in an interview with the Tennessee Diversity Consortium discussed his vision of equity. Though he didn’t specify which demographics were overrepresented, Hughes alluded that the Metro Nashville City Council, MNPS School Board, administrators, and state lawmakers were too White and economically well-off – and that was a sign of inequity.
“When you look at the way the inequity shows up, it’s involved in access. We know that within many wealthier districts, if we look at the makeup of the Metro City Council, and we look at the makeup of the MNPS School Board, you look at most of our administrators and most of our public policymakers come from certain demographic areas[,]” stated Hughes.
During the last MNPS meeting, one slide mentioned their Equity Roadmap but didn’t offer further detail.
According to the MNPS board meeting agenda notes for Tuesday, the Equity Roadmap is scheduled for discussion.
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