NC Senate Minority leader: anti-CRT bill won’t do what Republicans say it will | Opinion

In February, Republicans in the North Carolina State House filed House bill 187. Bill sponsors call it the “Equality in Education bill”and say it would protect our children from Critical Race Theory. But this bill is a covert way to flatten our state’s history into a one-dimensional, easy-to-swallow pill, leaving no room for the triumphs and victories of people who fought hardest for the democracy and society we have today.

Around the Legislative Office Building in Raleigh are photos of our state’s previous classes of lawmakers and legislative leaders. Through the years, you can see a visual representation of progress in our society — portraits of white men slowly bring in women and people of color as time goes on. But none of the people in any leadership position, through all the years were Black. Until me.

Dan Blue
Dan Blue

When I was elected to serve as the first Black Speaker of the House in 1991 and my picture went up on those marble walls, children who toured the legislative building shared their joy at seeing someone like me in those pictures. Not just Black children, but children of every racial background. Somehow, they all seemed to know that, although this was an achievement for one community, this portrait told the full story of North Carolina’s history.

Now, Republican lawmakers are trying to erase parts of our state’s history through HB 187. Under the guise of creating equal education for our children and attacking Critical Race Theory, they’re trying to sweep vital parts of our state’s story under the rug.

My Republican counterparts will say they must censor parts of our history because it could make people uncomfortable. But there is a difference between discomfort and pain. History should never be used to create pain or to assign blame for things no one today had any power over. But learning someone’s story, seeing life from another point of view — that will always be uncomfortable. And by going through that discomfort, we can learn how to become better people and contribute to a better society.

I grew up in Robeson County. At that time, the area was racially diverse, but certain parts of Black history were simply not talked about. Still, our teachers made it a point to paint the whole picture of our history for all students — not to blame the white students for their ancestor’s role in oppression or to make the Black students feel like they had a chip on their shoulder — but to show us all what we as a nation had overcome. To show us what was possible.

Now in Robeson County, where the student population is close to 90% students of color, community members are trying to ban books that show students the struggles of women in Afghanistan and LGBTQ people during the AIDS pandemic. Thankfully, the school board is fighting to make sure everyone’s history is honored and taught to our students in an age-appropriate and equitable way, but I can’t help but feel this is what happens when we allow culture wars to divide us.

If HB 187 becomes law, it will remove important parts of our nation’s history from the classroom, but that doesn’t mean it will remove it from our students’ grasp. Now more than ever, the internet and social media allow children unfiltered access to information from unverified and sometimes dubious sources.

Republicans like to say teaching Black history is indoctrination, but in the past few months, we’ve seen what true indoctrination looks like: mass shootings and violent hate crimes. If we try to cover up our history, we’re doomed to repeat this endless cycle of hate.

HB 187 isn’t about equal education. It is about erasing the parts of our state’s history that makes some people uncomfortable. It is about over-policing an already underfunded education system that is facing attacks on all sides. It is about scoring political points at the cost of our children’s education and their understanding of the world.

North Carolinians must stand strong and fight this war against our own history. I urge my fellow lawmakers to vote against this bill, and I urge all residents to call their representatives to tell them that our history — the good and the bad, the victories and the defeats — deserves to be told.

Dan Blue is Senate Minority Leader of the North Carolina General Assembly and was the first Black Speaker of the N.C. House of Representatives.