There is no racism in North Carolina. Nor sexual discrimination. Slaves were treated with kindness and like members of the family. The Civil War was not fought over slavery and Jim Crow laws didn't restrict anyone's voting rights. This is pure revisionist history, but some in our legislature want to insert their own interpretation of history into our education system.
A new wave of legislation emerged across the country following the publication of the New York Times series, The 1619 Project, stories depicting the year the first Africans were brought to our country as slaves. Former President Trump was incensed, saying the series was "toxic propaganda, ideological poison that, if not removed, will dissolve the civic bonds that tie us together, will destroy our country."
Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Idaho and other red states responded by passing laws that attempted to control the way history was being taught. Some clearly violate the First Amendment freedom of speech guarantees.
In one bill under consideration in our legislature, lawmakers want every teacher in every classroom to publish a list of resources they will use in teaching. They claim this will protect children from certain lines of political thought. Ironically, they are insisting on their own political thought. Are we about to see the banning of certain books, authors or writers?
House Bill 324, titled "Ensuring Dignity & Nondiscrimination/Schools" has already passed the House and is under consideration in our Senate. It sounds innocuous enough, prohibiting the teaching of the following concepts:
- "One race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex.
- "An individual, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.
- "An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex.
- "An individual's moral character is necessarily determined by his or her race or sex.
- "An individual, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex.
- "Any individual, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex, should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress.
- "The belief that the United States is a meritocracy is racist or sexist or was created by members of a particular race or sex to oppress members of another race or sex."
You might agree with many of these points, but a deeper examination reveals what this bill really does. Representative James Gailliard, a member of the House Education Committee and a person of color, was the only committee member to speak against the bill, saying it should be called a "don't hurt my feelings bill. What this bill does is it keeps history out of our schools. Probably the best way to reproduce history is to not talk about it. This is an act to ensure discrimination, fanaticism, bigotry."
He further said, "How can school systems teach that this nation was not founded on oppression?"
When the bill came up for a full House vote Gaston County Representative John Torbett, normally a plain-spoken Republican, said, "This bill does not change what history can and cannot be taught. It simply prevents schools from endorsing discriminatory concepts."
Really? What "discriminatory concepts?" He and other Republican legislators fear our schools introducing what is known as Critical Race Theory, a 40-year-old concept that racism is a social construct embedded in legal systems and policies, as well as individual biases or prejudices.
Lt. Governor Mark Robinson established a task force to reveal these and other teachings. It proposes to collect comments from parents, teachers and students about "indoctrination" in the classroom. In plain English he wants to know which teachers or schools don't teach history with the political slant he and his fellow Republicans want. What punishment will be imposed on violators?
Not too many years ago we didn't want religious instruction in our classrooms because we were concerned about how teachers of different faiths would present precepts to our children. Now it appears we will target teachers and schools because they might not interpret facts of history the way some prefer. What comes next? Chemistry, physics, algebra, trigonometry, calculus?
Let us be clear. We don't want any politics in the classroom... from either the left or right. But neither should we allow history to be taught the way we want
it to be instead of the actual way it happened.
Tom Campbell is a Hall of Fame North Carolina Broadcaster and columnist who has covered North Carolina public policy issues since 1965. He recently retired from writing, producing and moderating the statewide half-hour TV program NC SPIN that aired 22 ˝ years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.