As NC legislature debates critical race theory, Black lawmakers sit on one side of aisle

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Saturday, July 17, 2021
Black lawmakers remain critical of proposed CRT legislation
The legislature overall mirrors the state's African American demographics, but there are no African Americans among House Republicans or Senate Republicans.

Black lawmakers are sitting on one side of the aisle as the North Carolina state legislature debates critical race theory.

Republicans have a majority in both the House and Senate, so enough votes are needed to pass legislation if all GOP lawmakers supported it. This week, the Senate revived a bill about how to teach about race in schools.

There are no African Americans among the House Republicans or Senate Republicans, all are Democrat and some have been among the bill's most outspoken critics.

"I'm still trying to understand why we're here," said Sen. Don Davis, a Pitt County Democrat in a committee hearing Wednesday.

Sen. Jay Chaudhuri of Raleigh, who is the Senate Democratic whip and Indian-American, likened an "unfounded fear of Critical Race Theory" to tactics used during the Red Scare.

Sen. Joyce Waddell, a Mecklenburg County Democrat who is African American, said the legislation uses a "fear-based approach to limit teachers' ability to assess the reality of racism in the United States."


When asked during a news conference about the bill coming from a caucus with no Black members, Republican Senate leader Phil Berger said: "The most vocal proponent (of the legislation) is the lieutenant governor."

Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson is the state's first African American lieutenant governor, making history with his election in fall 2020. Robinson is a Republican. As lieutenant governor, he is the president of the Senate, which means he presides over session and would vote in the case of a tie.

Robinson said he'd heard that a student wanting to do a project on Robinson's historic achievement was rejected. He thinks it is because of his politics.

Critical race theory: What is it, and why are Republicans upset?

The lieutenant governor said he will release data from his office's task force soon about parent and teacher complaints of "indoctrination" in schools.

Lt. Governor Mark Robinson launches new website to report 'indoctrination' in North Carolina public schools

House Speaker Tim Moore told The N&O this week that he wished the House GOP caucus had African American representatives as well as more women.

"Our history has some very, very ugly, nasty chapters. Slavery is a stain on this nation. It continues to be. There are still lasting, lingering effects of racism. Absolutely is. But that does not mean for a moment that America is a racist nation," Moore said.

Critical Race Theory, according to the UNC-Chapel Hill history department, is a "scholarly framework that describes how race, class, gender, and sexuality organize American life."

This view holds that systemic racism has been and continues to be a part of the nation's history.

North Carolina school districts have denied they're teaching critical race theory.

The Senate bill forbids public schools from "promoting certain discriminatory concepts" such as that particular privileges should be ascribed to a race or sex or that people solely due to their race or sex should feel guilt, anguish or discomfort.

When the House passed its own version of the bill, several African American representatives spoke against it.

Rep. James Gailliard, a Nash County Democrat, talked about growing up biracial and said the bill would hide the nation's injustices.

"This is an act to ensure discrimination, fanaticism, bigotry," Gailliard said during a May committee meeting. "This is really a 'don't hurt my feelings' bill. 'Don't tell me the truth about our history because it may hurt my feelings.'"