Black Democrats are pushing back against Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson’s claim that systemic racism doesn’t exist.
Robinson, the state’s first Black lieutenant governor, is a Republican from Guilford County.
He made the comment about systemic racism earlier this week during a State Board of Education debate over revisions to social studies standards that would ensure the viewpoints of marginalized groups such as Blacks, Native Americans and others are included in history lessons.
Racism is a thing of the past, Robinson argued this week, citing the election of Barack Obama to president in 2008, then again in 2012, and his own election in November.
“The system of government that we have in this nation is not systemically racist,” Robinson said. “In fact, it is not racist at all.”
State Sen. Glady’s Robinson, a Democrat from Guilford County, strongly disagreed in a statement the NC Democratic Party released on Friday.
“Systemic racism is very real,” Gladys Robinson said. “As a PTA parent, I fought against unequal punishment of black boys for the same offense, as white boys, yet leaders refused to recognize their racial and cultural biases,” Gladys Robinson said.
As a member of the UNC Board of Governors, Gladys Robinson said she fought to make sure historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) received the funding and accreditation they deserved.
“There still remains major disparities between our HBCUs and their white counterparts,” Gladys Robinson said. “But these are just some of the many inequities that exist today. Attempting to erase our country’s fraught past will do nothing to move us toward a more equal and just world. It’s past time for us to teach and speak the truth — our children will be better citizens and absolutely better leaders.”
State Rep. Rosa Gill, a Wake County Democrat, called Mark Robinson’s remarks absurd.
“We cannot shelter our students from the ugly reality that racism has torn this country apart,” Gill said. “In order to make progress, we must educate and address these inequities openly and directly.”
Bobbie Richardson, a veteran educator and first vice chair of the NC Democratic Party, expressed alarm at Mark Robinson’s “deeply insensitive comments.”
“His sentiments fly in the face of the continued inequities people of color face every day in our society,” Richardson said. “As many have said before me, if we do not remember our history, we are bound to repeat it. Teaching our children the painful past of our country is a necessary and important step in the fight for racial equality and creating that more perfect union we strive to be.”
The revised social studies standards have garnered a lot of attention.
The N.C. Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) shared Draft 5 of the revised standards this week with the state board.
NCDPI staffer developed Draft 5 in response to Mark Robinson’s complaint about the tone of Draft 4. State Superintendent Catherine Truitt also objected to “explicit language” in the revision that some state board members requested to promote the inclusion of diverse voices.
Changes proposed by Truitt include replacing the terms “systemic racism,” “systemic discrimination” and “gender identity” with racism, discrimination and identity, Truitt said the changes would expand the definitions to make them more inclusive.
“If the standard specifies gender identity, that doesn’t allow for other kinds of identities such as economic, regional, those types of identities to be included in the conversation and the same is true for various types of discrimination and various types of racism,” Truitt said.
The Durham Public Schools (DPS) Board of Education adopted a resolution this month urging the state board to approve Draft 4 of the revised standards.