Let’s start with the fact that it’s a phony-baloney scare tactic issue. Critical race theory is not taught in North Dakota schools and was not going to be.
I’m trying to figure out how critical race theory got to be a conservative hot-button issue. My guess is it all goes back to the senseless murder of George Floyd. Before that, virtually nobody had ever heard of critical race theory. After Floyd’s death, we started hearing about the murders of other innocent Black Americans, such as Elijah McClain and Ahmaud Arbery. Protests against racial injustice took place, schools named after racists were renamed, statues of Confederates and former Minnesota Twins owner Calvin Griffith were removed, NASCAR banned Confederate flags and even Aunt Jemima pancake syrup dropped its name.
Conservatives had enough. It was time to fight back. Thus, the emphasis on critical race theory from social media, conservative cable news outlets and politicians.
Sen. Erin Oban, D-Bismarck, was spot on when she said, “The bill’s not serious policy, it’s a red herring. It’s the definition of culture wars which most of us claim to hate and makes a mockery of our century code.”
Instead, it turned into a five-day circus. This bill should have been addressed at the next regular legislative session. That’s when bills are thoroughly scrutinized and take several weeks or months to be passed. The last thing this rushed was former President Donald Trump’s victory declaration on election night last year.
Also, if the legislature really wanted to address school issues, it should have looked at things that matter, such as test scores, graduation rates, teacher salaries and feeding our students.
Regardless, racism has been an indelible part of American history, and students need to learn about it. That includes the genocide and broken treaties against Native Americans, slavery, Jim Crow laws and lynchings against Black Americans, the Chinese Exclusion Act and the imprisonment of Americans of Japanese ancestry during World War II.
They should also learn the wonderful things about this great nation, such as our freedoms, the soldiers who fought and died for those freedoms, the millions of immigrants who arrived here seeking freedom and a better way of life and incredible advances in technology and science (including the development of vaccines).
The problem now is, many teachers might be afraid to teach about racist history because they fear they’re violating this horrible new law. Meantime, I assume the Legislature will now pass bills about whether the earth is round, whether the moon landings really happened, and where to find mermaids.
Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director.