New North Dakota Law Makes It Illegal to Teach About Systemic Racism

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (Photo from Office of the Governor webpage)

The right-wing campaign against teaching about racism in American history and institutions achieved another milestone Friday night when North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum signed a law that bans the teaching of anything “relating to critical race theory” in the state’s public schools.

The law defines critical race theory as “the theory that racism is not merely the product of learned individual bias or prejudice, but that racism is systemically embedded in American society and the American legal system to facilitate racial inequality.”

“Faced with these constraints, how can a teacher discuss slavery, the civil rights era, or the history of redlining?” asked journalist Judd Legum. “All of these topics are inextricably related to systemic racism in American society and its legal system.”

Written testimony submitted in support of the law cited supposed examples of critical race theory, including the mention of George Floyd’s name and students being taught that white people had stolen the Black Hills mountain range from native tribes—which is historical fact.

The new North Dakota law was introduced, passed both houses with only Republican votes, and signed into law by Doug Burgum in just eight days during a special legislative session that also saw passage of legislation restricting COVID-19 vaccine requirements.

The campaign against critical race theory is not only about controlling what is taught in classrooms; it is a manufactured panic meant to help right-wing politicians mobilize voters to win elections, as Glenn Youngkin did in his upset victory in the Virginia governor’s race.