Published August 26, 2021
By Thomas Mills
Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson released a report on his investigation into the use of Critical Race Theory in schools.Republicans have suddenly embraced the term “indoctrination.” It’s all over my #NCPOL twitter feed. In their minds, our children are being brainwashed by teachers to believe that White people have an unfair advantage over African Americans and that White people subjugated Black people during Jim Crow and beyond. Ironically, Robinson’s and most Republicans’ rejection of the notion of systemic racism shows the real dangers of indoctrination.
For most of the 20th century, Southerners were taught that Confederate leaders were heroes. They built false narratives of benevolent and reluctant slave owners who would have probably ended slavery without the Civil War if given enough time. We built monuments to the soldiers of the Confederacy lauding their noble cause.
In fact, the cause was anything but noble. It was literally evil and it resulted in a war that left 600,000 Americans dead. Nobody was ever held accountable. Instead, the people who instigated it regained power less than 20 years after they were defeated. They went about subjugating African Americans again and they had broad support from the White population of the former Confederacy.
Much of the wealth created in the Southern states came from the use of slave labor. In the aftermath of the war, Southerners continued to build wealth based on an unequal system of tenant farms that kept rural African Americans in debt to White landowners. African Americans were denied the fruits of their labor and their ability to create wealth was stymied. The remnants of this system are visible today in the disproportional poverty rates of African Americans in the rural South.
Despite all of the evidence, too many White Southerners still believe in the myth of the Lost Cause. Across North Carolina, White Southerners have protested the removal of Confederate monuments in front of courthouses and other public property. They claim “Heritage, not Hate.” That’s what indoctrination looks like.
After the Silent Sam statue was toppled in 2018, the UNC Board of Governors paid a neo-Confederate group $2.5 million to take care of the monument to the Confederates who attended UNC. That’s what indoctrination looks like.
In the aftermath of a massacre at a South Carolina church, Republicans in the General Assembly passed a law to protect Confederate monuments in North Carolina. If they thought they were doing the right thing, then that’s what indoctrination looks like.
Mark Robinson and the GOP aren’t really trying to stop indoctrination. They are trying to stop our schools from teaching that generations of Southerners were indoctrinated to believe that African Americans are inferior, that the Civil War was a noble cause, and that Jim Crow was an appropriate social construct broadly supported by White political leaders, business owners, and citizens. And they want us to believe that less than sixty years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that racism has been eradicated and that remnants of Jim Crow have been rooted out of our government and social institutions, despite all of the evidence to the contrary. That’s what indoctrination looks like.