• IPS Community Coalition

Representative Behning, Racism, and Accountability

A seemingly racist public statement was made by Robert Behning, Republican House Education Committee Chair. When asked why Black students were not doing well academically, he said, “I would suggest that part of the problem is — and there’s a number of things — poverty impacts that for sure, having respect for learning, there’s a lot of things that come into play.” The main part of his statement that was labeled “racist” was the lack of “respect for learning.” As soon as this went viral, he made a public statement that he had misspoke, and he apologized. Given he is the Chair of the House Education Committee, a Marian University Vice-President, and the Director for Marian’s Center for Vibrant Schools, is his misspoke claim credible? There are two serious problems with his claim. First, that Black people do not respect education is an old racist stereotype. Second, decades of education research refuting this stereotype is overwhelming. Anyone who is an expert in education would know this. Surely, given his elevated positions in education with Marian and the Republican Party, he would be expected to know about both this racist stereotype and the research refuting it. If, however, he does not have sufficient education expertise to know his statement is a well refuted, racist stereotype, why would Marian or the Republican Party place him in such premier positions in their education work? Thus, we join those who have called for Marian University and the Republican Party to hold him accountable. Otherwise, Marian and the Republican Party are communicating to all of us that they accept his lack of education expertise, his racism, or both. Pastor David W. Greene, President of the Concerned Clergy & Senior Pastor of Purpose of Life Ministries Dr. Jim Scheurich, IUPUI School of Education Professor