MARCANO: State representatives can’t defend the indefensible

Credit: FILE

Credit: FILE

It’s time to call Ohio House Bills 322 and 327 what they are: shameful race-baiting legislation.

It’s also time for Rep. Phil Plummer (R-Dayton) to justify his support of both.

I, and several others at this newspaper, have been trying to reach Plummer for weeks to talk about a variety of issues — and we just get crickets. That should infuriate voters because the media serves as a conduit between him and the general public at large, a public that voted for him and deserves his attention.

HB 322 would make it harder for educators to teach about race in schools and 327 prohibits teaching “divisive concepts,” whatever that means.

ExploreVOICES: Divisive concepts cannot be legislated away

Both of these bills have been born from the phony Critical Race Theory outcry. Republicans admit that they’re harping on race in schools because they see it as a winning issue among suburban moms who can help them take back the U.S. House and Senate in 2022.

But the naked ambition for political gain hides a more sinister truth — the deliberate attempt to thwart an honest examination of this country’s past and the impact it carries today, despite what the bill’s proponents say.

HB 322 sponsor Don Jones, (R-Freeport) has 27-co-sponsors, including Plummer, but no lawmakers of color. There are four lawmakers, including Plummer, who come from fairly diverse districts, meaning their populations mirror or exceed state averages for people of color. The remainder represents districts that are, when averaged out, overwhelmingly white — 88%.

Of course, white lawmakers can introduce legislation that’s fair to everyone (see: 1964 Civil Rights Act and many more). But this situation does call into question the purpose behind the focus on race-based politics and highlights why no people of color have not signed on.

ExploreVOICES: HB 327 protects children’s right to learn American History objectively

Democratic Rep. Catherine Ingram, a member of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, neatly summed up what’s at stake, from the perspective of the sponsors and co-sponsors:

“This is a way that we will control what happens in society, and we’re going to get rid of this nonsense about you thinking that Black people have been mistreated, or Hispanics have been mistreated, or even poor coal miners in (West) Virginia were mistreated. We’re not going to tell that part of history because it makes people uncomfortable when there is an oppressor and someone who’s being oppressed.”

I give Rep. Sarah Fowler Arthur all the credit in the world for doing what so many of her colleagues won’t — stepping forward, even if her comments should be taken with a grain of salt. In an interview with WHBC radio, posted on Facebook on July 22, 2021, she justified HB 327 by saying students shouldn’t have to adhere to a “Marxist ideology” to get a passing grade. She then linked CRT (which isn’t taught K-12) to Marxism, bundling two of the right’s favorite boogeymen. So really, it’s her ideology that drives her, not what’s best for students.

ExploreHow Dayton-area schools teach about race — or not

But at least she speaks, which we can’t say (yet) for Plummer. Here’s what I want to ask him:

  • What do you say to your diverse district about your support for a bill that’s clearly meant to divide based on race?
  • What do you say to the thousands of teachers who would be hamstrung in the classroom by the undefined “divisive theory” concept?
  • Republicans are, among other things, keen on liberty, a lack of government intrusion, and free speech, as am I. How do you square those principles with bills that restrict the liberty and speech of teachers and result in government intrusion?

It could be he has really good answers that I’m not thinking about. My guess is he’s not answering — Don Jones didn’t either, by the way — because they can’t defend the indefensible.

Those of us who see these bills for what they are need to stop playing into the “culture wars” narrative and be far more aggressive in our description.

This is race-baiting and a shameless political effort designed to pit one group of people against another. So call it what it is. How does anybody in elected office justify that?

Maybe, one day, Phil Plummer will tell us his side.

Ray Marcano is a long-time journalist whose column appears on these pages each Sunday. He can be reached at

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