Gov. Greg Abbott obviously believes the horrible historical truth about the Holocaust. Only a few months ago, he signed a new law creating the Texas Holocaust, Genocide and Antisemitism Advisory Commission, charged with producing studies of antisemitism in Texas and working with schools to fight against it. And last year, he delivered remarks in Austin to help commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
But Abbott was silent last week when a school administrator in Carroll ISD, overreacting to the new, so-called “critical race theory” law that Abbott promoted and signed, told teachers to put books with “opposing” views of the Holocaust – books by Holocaust deniers, in other words — in their classroom libraries.
The governor may have been surprised, but he shouldn’t have been. This result, although extreme, is what you can expect when a governor and his legislative allies enact a law deliberately designed to whitewash or soft-pedal the teaching of historical truths that make some people uncomfortable.
The new law was specifically targeted at the teaching of racism, part of a national right-wing crusade trumpeted by Abbott’s hero, Donald Trump, to feed more red meat to an under-informed, mis-informed, fearful and prejudicial political base.
But it is only a matter of steps – or an under-educated generation or two — from deemphasizing racism in our history and culture to forgetting about slavery or denying the Holocaust and the other well-documented Nazi atrocities of World War II. Carroll was just the beginning. There will be other school administrators and teachers (for fear of losing their jobs) who will overreact or misinterpret this law and start shortchanging their students. It is inevitable, and many of those incidents will go unnoticed.
Regardless of personal politics, the governor of Texas is supposed to be a moral leader for all his constituents, and Abbott, by neglecting to issue a strong public repudiation of the Carroll administrator’s reaction to his bad law, missed an opportunity to fulfill that responsibility.
But Abbott’s focus right now is not on most of his constituents nor on the quality of public education. It is on his party’s primary, in which he is being challenged for reelection by two right-wing fringe candidates. That primary is drawing closer, and it will attract some voters the governor doesn’t want to offend – such as Holocaust deniers and others who may be wondering what all the fuss was about.