'In fact, it is not racist at all,' Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson claimed.
The North Carolina Board of Education on Thursday voted to approve more diverse and inclusive K-12 social studies standards, but a few key words were omitted after some Republicans argued that American history was not racist.
The standards aim to "explain how individual values and societal norms contribute to institutional discrimination and the marginalization of minority groups living under the American system of government."
Despite a concentrated push from two board members to carry over the terms "systemic racism," "systemic discrimination," and "gender identity" from previous social studies standards, most of the board voted to cut down the terms to simply "racism," "discrimination," and "identity" only.
State Board Chair Eric Davis said the struggle was to "[think] about how to make sure the tone of the standards balanced a celebration of American achievements with an examination of American shortcomings," according to EducationNC.
The final version of those standards passed by a margin of 7-5, with all Republicans on the board voting against them.
In a previous meeting to discuss the standards, however, Republicans made several comments denying systemic racism and oppression existed at all.
"The system of government that we have in this nation is not systematically racist," North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson said on Jan. 27. "In fact, it is not racist at all."
Adding to his argument, Robinson pointed out that he is North Carolina's first Black lieutenant governor, and that America had already elected its first Black president in former President Barack Obama.
Prior to the vote, Robinson cited an online petition with over 30,000 signatures asking the board to vote against the standards.
Joining Robinson's opposition was state board member Amy White, a former social studies teacher in the state. She said teachers should be telling students that America was the greatest nation on Earth.
"While I think some of the revisions have been helpful, I still see an agenda that is anti-American, anti-capitalism, anti-democracy," she said, blaming the media for "anti-American" perspectives.
As a result, the State Board Superintendent Catherine Truitt, who does not have a vote on the board, took out "systemic" and "gender" from the standards to appease the Republicans. She told CNN that she was "disappointed" by the controversy.
"For nearly two years, the Department has worked to create consensus among hundreds of educators and stakeholders statewide over the history standards," she said. "I'm disappointed there was not a unanimous vote on these standards today because the Department of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education created them to be both inclusive and encompassing."
Truitt penned a preamble to the standards, saying, they "must reflect the nation's diversity and that the successes, contributions, and struggles of multiple groups and individuals should be included. This means teaching the hard truths of Native American oppression, anti-Catholicism, exploitation of child labor, and Jim Crow, to name a few."
She emphasized the importance of teaching "racism, xenophobia, nativism, extremism, and isolationism," adding, "We need to study history in order to understand how these situations developed, the harmful impact they caused, and the forces and actors that sometimes helped us move beyond these outcomes."
Advocates including the North Carolina NAACP have since pushed back against the term exclusions.
"Learning the truth about North Carolina's history — the good truth and the bad truth — is the only way to make good citizens of our children," said Dr. T Anthony Spearman, president of the state's NAACP, in a statement on Saturday. "It is also the only way to make democracy work."
He added, "We need our children to know the truth, the whole truth. Equal justice and true freedom will come only when that full truth is told."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.