Senate leader proposes state constitutional amendment aimed at Critical Race Theory

North Carolina Republican Senate leader Phil Berger speaks at a Senate Education Committee hearing on Wednesday, July 14, 2021, in the Legislative Office Building in Raleigh, N.C. North Carolina Republicans are moving forward with a plan to limit how teachers can discuss certain racial concepts inside the classroom, according to the state's most powerful senator. Berger said his chamber will advance the measure seeking to ban the promotion of critical race theory in K-12 public school classrooms. (AP Photo/Bryan Anderson)

RALEIGH — At a July 14 press conference where a proposed new amendment to the North Carolina Constitution was introduced, Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden) spoke at length about the controversy surrounding Critical Race Theory.

“What do we do when confronted with a doctrine that ‘questions the very foundations of the liberal order’? That’s how leading legal scholars Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic describe critical race theory, the school of thought they helped found,” Berger said. “They seek to replace the existing order with a new order, one that preaches ‘the only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination,’ and that everything we see and do boils down to race and a racial hierarchy — the intersection of race and power.”

Berger went on to say that “this doctrine is ascendant in American culture and in parts of North Carolina.”

“I oppose it, and I will combat it with everything that I have, because it undoes the framework that produced the most successful ongoing experiment in self-government in the history of mankind,” Berger said. “Children must learn about our state’s racial past and all of its ugliness, including the cruelty of slavery, the 1898 Wilmington massacre, and the Jim Crow era.”

He also said that “students must not be forced to adopt an ideology that is separate and distinct from history; an ideology that attacks ‘the very foundations of the liberal order,’ and that promotes ‘present discrimination’ — so long as it’s against the right people — as ‘antiracist.’”

Woven in the speech was the announcement of a new state constitutional amendment for consideration.

“And we can, and hopefully will, put to the voters a constitutional amendment that reinforces the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and places in our state’s foundational text the principle of equality before the law,” said Berger.

Senate Bill 729, Public Nondiscrimination Amendment, was filed shortly after the conclusion of the press conference.  The amendment would be in a new section added to Article 1 of the North Carolina Constitution, titled “Prohibition on discrimination or preferential treatment in public employment, education, or contracting.”

The main text of the amendment reads, “The State and its political subdivisions, including the free public schools and public institutions of higher education, shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.”

Berger said that the Senate would be taking up the latest version of an active House bill aimed at combating schools from forcing students to agree with ideologies like Critical Race Theory. The bill is House Bill 324, titled, “Ensuring Dignity & Nondiscrimination/Schools.” It would prohibit public schools from compelling students “to affirm or profess belief in” discriminatory concepts, which include:

  • That one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex;
  • An individual, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive;
  • An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex;
  • A meritocracy is inherently racist or sexist;
  • Particular character traits, values, moral or ethical codes, privileges, or beliefs should be ascribed to a race or sex, or to an individual because of the individual’s race or sex.

The bill, as written, contains no enforcement clauses or penalties for violating the bill should it become law.

During his remarks, Berger mentioned examples that included Durham’s city government having authorized a “racial equity task force report” that he said is “steeped in the ideology” of Critical Race Theory.

“Durham’s report warns of pervasive ‘whiteness,’ a whiteness that ’embodies all [all!] of our systems’ and ‘oppress[es] people of color,’” said Berger.

The Senate leader also cited noted “antiracist” Ibram X. Kendi’s desire to establish a federal Department of Antiracism. Berger notes Kendi’s new department would have “the power to supersede all federal, state, and local policymakers and instill what they define as ‘equity’ across the land.”

Kendi is known for stating that, “the only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination.”

Since February, North State Journal has reported on issues of “antiracist” training or training containing Critical Race Theory themes found in Wake County Public Schools, the state’s largest school district. In particular, a training course called “Intro to Critical Race Theory,” which was to be facilitated by The Equity Collaborative, a company founded and run by Rep. Graig Meyer (D-Durham).

Berger was asked if lawmakers were taking a look at that kind of teacher training and if there were conversations to be had with the N.C. State Board of Education.  He said there was nothing in the current bill that dealt with training, but that may be a conversation that takes place in the future.

Of Critical Race Theory, Berger also said “I call it a theology, because it has all the tenets of a religion.”

He went on to say that “The premises that govern its view of the universe are unfalsifiable and self-reinforcing. Its adherents see dissenting arguments as evidence of the doctrine’s provenance, diagnosing dissenters with subconscious white guilt or white rage or some other term found in the doctrine’s scripts.”

“Parents who see the same doctrinal rhetoric appearing in their children’s school materials or their district’s website (‘intersectionality,’ ‘whiteness,’ ‘antiracist,’) are showing up at school board meetings and calling their legislators. They’re concerned that their children might be inculcated with a radical new way of viewing the world,” Berger said, and then asked, “Can you blame them?”

About A.P. Dillon 542 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_