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Warning that Americans in schools, the military, corporations and federal agencies are being taught a racist and radical version of the nation’s history, North Carolina Republicans in Congress vowed to fight back with legislation.
Their main target is critical race theory, a “scholarly framework that describes how race, class, gender, and sexuality organize American life,” according to the UNC-Chapel Hill history department. Critics, including Republicans, call it Marxist, anti-American, racist, destructive — and, most concerning to them, pervasive.
“This is so grotesque, so contrary to the foundational principles that have created a successful society that it ought to be opposed to everywhere,” said Rep. Dan Bishop, a Charlotte Republican.
Bishop spoke Wednesday at a press conference for the introduction of two bills with the backing of fellow House Freedom Caucus members, including Rep. Ted Budd, a Davie County Republican and a candidate for U.S. Senate in 2022.
Bishop said critical race theory “espouses that America is an irredeemably racist society in its origins and in its present condition.”
Bishop’s first bill would prohibit the U.S. military from using materials to promote critical race theory. Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, introduced the same bill in the U.S. Senate in March.
His second would codify former President Donald Trump’s since-rescinded directive banning federal agencies from holding training sessions on critical race theory or white privilege and would ban any federal funds from being used to promote the theory anywhere.
“For the sake of our children’s future, we must stop this effort to cancel the truth of our founding and our country,” Bishop said.
Defining critical race theory
Critical race theory is not “a way to teach white people that they are inherently racist,” members of the UNC history department wrote last year. Instead, they wrote, it “offers an important analytical lens through which to view the larger structures and cultural assumptions that guide American society,” including why “Black people die in the hands of police at a much higher than average rate, even though most individual police officers have never killed a Black person.”
Democrat Erica Smith, a Senate candidate in 2022 who works in public education, said it is important that students’ education include an understanding of civics and politics, which, she said, includes racism in America.
Smith said current issues such as voter suppression, policing and even the algorithms used to produce artificial intelligence have racial components to them.
“I am against revisionist history,” Smith said in a phone interview. “We have to confront the history we have with racism in North Carolina, which are systemic holdovers from African descendant slavery and the Jim Crow segregation era ... In building a more just society, there has to be an understanding of critical race theory and not just in North Carolina, but in our nation.”
The state House approved legislation banning public schools in North Carolina from using lessons that endorse the idea that the nation is racist or sexist. North Carolina’s State Board of Education in February approved social studies standards that let teachers discuss racism, discrimination and the perspectives of marginalized groups, The News & Observer reported.
House Freedom Caucus members at the press conference repeatedly referred to the indoctrination of students.
Budd said corporate America, big tech and Hollywood are pushing critical race theory.
“We need to teach them that this nation is special,” Budd said. “We need to teach them that our country is blessed by God. We need to teach them that we embody the ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and that we are all endowed by our creator with equal rights that no man or no government can ever take away.”
“And that’s the truth about the United States of America.”
Another bill from NC members
Bishop’s bills are not the only effort from North Carolina Republicans.
Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who represents far-western North Carolina, introduced legislation to prevent the Department of Education from using tax dollars to fund any critical race theory priorities.
“Critical race theory is dangerous because it is a lie. America was built on a dream of freedom and opportunity not hate and division,” Cawthorn said in a statement.
Rep. Virginia Foxx, of Banner Elk, is among the original co-sponsors of the Cawthorn’s legislation. She is the top Republican on the House education committee
“America is not a racist country,” Foxx said. “We are a collection of the failures and successes of past generations to create a nation grounded in the idea that all people are created equal. That is what our schools should be teaching our youth, that no matter your background, there is room for you to succeed in America.”
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