Teaching Race-North Carolina

North Carolina Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson speaks at a Senate Education Committee hearing on Wednesday, July 14, 2021, in the Legislative Office Building in Raleigh, N.C.

(The Center Square) – Senate Democrats have vowed to uphold Gov. Roy Cooper's veto of a bill that would have banned certain concepts about race and discrimination from being taught in North Carolina public schools.

Cooper vetoed House Bill 324, a bill that led to heated debate in both chambers of the General Assembly. It prohibits schools from promoting more than a dozen concepts, most of which came from critical race theory.

The theory is centered around the idea that race is a social construct used to oppress people of color. It was developed by legal scholars in the late 1970s and 1980s and concludes racism in America is systemic. Critical race theory gained new notoriety in response to the 1619 Project, a New York Times multimedia piece that connects slavery to capitalism.

Cooper said the Republican-proposed measure pushes calculated, conspiracy-laden politics into public education.

"The legislature should be focused on supporting teachers, helping students recover lost learning, and investing in our public schools," Cooper said Friday in a statement.

It would take a three-fifths majority vote in each chamber to override the governor's veto. Republicans hold the majority in both chambers, but GOP members would need support from Democrats to reach the three-fifths threshold.

Senate Democratic Leader Dan Blue, D-Wake, said Senate Democrats would uphold Cooper's veto. Democrats in both chambers said they opposed the measure because it would censor history.

HB 324 lists 13 concepts educators would be banned from promoting in public schools. The legislation prohibits schools from teaching race superiority and that people and the country are inherently racist or sexist. It blocks schools from teaching students to stereotype others as morally corrupt or prejudice based on skin color or sex.

The measure also would have stopped schools from making students "feel guilt or anguish" because of their race, sex or actions of others in the past. It blocks schools from encouraging the idea that America was created by a certain subgroup to oppress others and bans schools from promoting overthrowing the U.S. government and that the rule of law does not exist.

Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said Democrats' choice to oppose the bill "shows how far off the rails the mainstream Democratic Party has gone."

HB 324 was approved across party lines, 61-41, in the House. All of the Democrats who were in the House for the final vote Sept. 1 voted against the measure, as was the case in the Senate when it was approved, 25-17, on Aug. 26.

Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson said Cooper's veto of the bill was "a lazy response." Robinson, a strong proponent of the measure, launched a task force to examine "indoctrination" of the concepts in the state's schools. He released a report with 506 statements from teachers and parents alleging incidents of indoctrination in schools. Teachers and students reported being taught or trained that Black people are oppressed and white people are privileged.

"The report on Indoctrination in North Carolina Public Education created by my office; irrefutably established that there is a clear problem in our state," Robinson said in a statement. "For the governor to say that this bill is pushing 'conspiracy-laden politics' does a disservice to the teachers, students, and parents across our state who have voiced their concerns."

Robinson said he asked Cooper to share which discriminatory concepts in the bill he believed students should be compelled to believe.

"However, in his veto, he chose not to share those details," Robinson said.

Staff Reporter

Nyamekye Daniel has been a journalist for five years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel's work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times.