Critical Race Theory is the belief that all facets of society, people, and history are inherently racist. It sees everything through the prism of race, dividing society into two groups, oppressors (whites) and oppressed (minorities).

In my column last week, I wrote about the incipient revolt of parents against the teaching of CRT in the nation’s schools.

Teachers are getting into the act as well. For example, a middle school teacher in Chicago is suing her school district, alleging that teachers and students are required to participate in racially segregated antiracist exercises and that teachers are required to teach materials depicting white people as inherently racist oppressors.

Politicians on state and national levels are pushing back, too. Governor Ron DeSantis got the Florida Legislature to pass a bill forbidding the teaching of CRT in Florida schools. “The woke class wants to teach kids to hate each other, rather than teaching them how to read, but we will not let them bring nonsense ideology into Florida’s schools,” he said. Other states are following his lead.

In Washington, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas introduced a bill banning federal funding for CRT training in the workplace, saying, “The federal government has no right to force a political agenda onto Americans, especially one that aims to tear down our institutions and divide us based on race.”

But what of our state, North Carolina? In January, the State Board of Education considered Critical Race Theory in adopting new standards for teaching about racism and discrimination. Nothing in the standards appeared to impose a particular belief system. But Mark Robinson, the state’s first black lieutenant governor, disagreed. “I think they’re divisive, and I think that they, quite frankly, smack of a lot of leftist dogma.” On June 17 the state Board of Education adopted new standards on history and race that includes a guide for educators when teaching about racism and discrimination.

The state’s General Assembly did not wait for the board’s adoption of the new standards. On May 12 it passed House Bill 324 to limit the teaching of CRT in North Carolina schools. The bill was sent to the state Senate, which referred it to its Education/Higher Education Standing Committee on June 30. The bill is expected to pass, but the governor’s signature is not a sure thing.

Meanwhile, the issue has become a political football. Critics of HB 324 dismiss it as cynical political theater by the white Republicans in the General Assembly. They say these are the same people who routinely constrain black people’s right to vote, who racially gerrymander electoral districts, and lionize Confederate memorials, among many other racially biased acts. “Don’t give in to the hysteria,” they say. But who exactly is being hysterical, if not the proponents of the indoctrination of children into hating others and hating themselves because of the color of their skin?

As I write these words on our nation’s 245th birthday, I think of Thomas Jefferson and his immortal declaration:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Jefferson, a slave owner, certainly was not perfect. But he had a vision of America as a great nation of patriots working arm in arm achieve liberty and happiness for all.

Jefferson would be proud of the great progress we have made, but he would be saddened to see so many reject the history of our struggles — and success — to achieve racial equality and overcome racial prejudice. If he could speak today, he would surely tell us that happiness cannot be achieved by tearing down our institutions and replacing our traditional values with a culture of hate and division.

This was not his vision. It must not be ours.

Claude Milot is a resident of Perquimans County. He can be reached at cmilot@embarqmail.com.