Editorial: Racism does exist. Latest push to ban discussing it is proof

Posted July 16, 2021 5:00 a.m. EDT
Updated July 16, 2021 6:32 a.m. EDT

CBC Editorial: Friday, July 16, 2021; Editorial #8684
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company.

The message state Senate leader Phil Berger sent on Wednesday was clear.

It was NOT about accurately and completely teaching American history to North Carolina’s school children.

It was about perpetuating the white supremacist myth that racism doesn’t exist in today’s America. Even more, anyone who entertains a discussion about it – not necessarily agreeing or disagreeing – is anti-American and in violation of teaching standards that he seeks to impose.

Perhaps most astonishing is that Berger and fellow legislative leaders have perpetuated policies that have been defined by federal courts as racist. The federal Court of Appeals in 2016, said provisions in the legislature’s voter ID law “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.” That is intent. That is a clear definition of racism. Is that OK in an all-or-nothing pursuit of winning elections?  The latest example comes in the treatment of Nikole Hannah-Jones, whose tenure request at the University of North Carolina a devolved into matters about her race and not her experience or credentials.

Berger harkens to those simpler days, back in the 1950s when McCarthyism sought to set standards for what was and wasn’t the truth, who was or wasn’t loyal and what could – but most significantly could not – be discussed except in the narrowest of terms. Those deemed violators of their imposed norms were, using the vernacular of the time, “black-listed.” Their lives unfairly and unjustly ruined without a hint of due process – let alone the truth.

So, we now have a new kind of list – being compiled by the lieutenant governor’s task force “exposing indoctrination in the classroom.” Unless, of course, that indoctrination is what Berger say is the “truth” of which they approve.

Berger’s statement Wednesday, supposedly proving evidence and justification for his 21st century McCarthyism, was a jumble of out-of-context citations and false conclusions.

“The senator is not a very careful reader,” said Richard Delgado, a professor of law at the University of Alabama. “He picks two or three words from here or there out of a long book, expands them to mean a number of preposterous things, and ignores all the rest.”

He’s not just any law professor, he is the co-author of “Critical Race Theory, An Introduction” that Berger cited in detail on Wednesday. We’re sure Delgado has a far better understanding of what he’s written and what it means than Berger and the senator’s staffers who may have assisted in the statement’s drafting.

Berger then goes on to misinterpret former President Barack Obama – a national leader who Berger rarely passes up the opportunity to denigrate as well as miss the chance to stymie his initiatives (Medicaid expansion quickly comes to mind).

Berger says that in the 2004 keynote address to the Democratic National Convention in Boston, Obama claimed “there is only one America, undefined by color” – Berger’s words – NOT Obama’s.

But anyone who might have heard that speech or gone back to read it knows and can clearly tell, that is NOT what Obama said nor what he meant. In that speech, Obama talked of the need to “eradicate the slander that says a Black youth with a book is acting white.” What he was talking about was something alien to Berger. “It is that fundamental belief – ‘I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper’ -- that makes this country work. It’s what allows us to pursue our individual dreams and yet still come together as one American family,” Obama said.

Berger’s statement takes Durham city officials to task for calling on teachers to engage students in conversations about the historic impact of the institutional racism on peoples’ lives today. He criticized a report issued by the city’s Racial Equity Task Force.

This is what Durham Mayor Stephen Schewel says the City Council really did.

“The Durham City Council voted to support the Durham Board of Education’s resolution in defense of teaching critical race theory. This means teaching the history of slavery and racial discrimination in America as a real and important part of our history. It means teaching that Black and white Americans have vastly different histories because of centuries of slavery and because of discrimination that continues to this day,” he said after reading Berger’s remarks.

“In Durham, through our policies and budgeting, we work hard to make up for past injustices that stem from this past and present discrimination. This includes, for example, investing in neighborhoods which have suffered from a long history of redlining. These investments can take the form of affordable housing, transit, sidewalks and other resources.

“… Sen. Berger calls this 'discrimination.' I call it righting the wrongs of the past, the history of enslavement and discrimination against Black people that we must address.”

Regrettably but more so undeniably, racism does exist in America and North Carolina. It is as overt as the thugs who desecrated a monument to the Black North Carolinians who helped build the University of North Carolina. It is as subtle as laws and policies that deny health coverage to half-a-million North Carolinians and have state prisons where 52% of the inmates are Black compared to a general population that is 22% Black.

Berger’s statement was not about bringing people together, but rather injecting wedges and divisions. Is this only about winning elections no matter the tactics? What’s really going on. We’ll be digging deeper. Stay tuned.

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