By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
February 3, 2021
Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson pulled no punches Tuesday when he called out WRAL for publishing a cartoon depicting GOP members on the state Board of Education as members of the Ku Klux Klan because they’ve opposed proposed changes to the state’s social studies curriculum that would showcase issues such as systemic racism and gender identity.
“That cartoon doesn’t really bother me. What bothers me is the hypocrisy behind it. That’s what bothers me, that you would portray a Black man, just because he is in the GOP, as a Klansman. That you would portray an American Indian woman, a native American woman, Olivia Oxendine, who is a Lumber Indian and who has had to face the Klan and their egregious actions and has had to fight against them, that you would portray her as something that vile,” Robinson said during a press conference responding to the cartoon. “The hypocrisy is mind-numbing, folks.”
A de facto member of the BOE, Robinson had made clear his stance on the proposed curriculum changes as early as Jan. 6, and in a press release last Wednesday urged that education standards be drafted “without an underlying agenda and without political motivations.” Instead he said the proposed social studies curriculum portrayed America as a “racist nation with systems in place designed to discriminate against minority groups.”
“I am opposed to these standards because of the divisive language, and the clear radical agenda being pushed on our students,” he wrote.
On Tuesday, he said WRAL’s publication of Dennis Draughon’s cartoon, proves the news outlet to be “a hypocrite and a liar.”
“I don’t mind the fact that people have the right to say these things, but I do mind when they tell me that they are not racist, that they stand up for justice, that they stand up for equality and that their institution or their publication does that and then they print something like that,” Robinson said, pointing to an enlarged copy of the cartoon next to his podium.
Robinson also pointed out the timing of the cartoon, appearing on the second day of Black History Month, a fact that was not lost on others who spoke out on his behalf.
“Sadly, while today should be a day to celebrate how far we’ve come, we see firsthand how the liberal news media is viciously attacking independent thinking black men,” wrote Civil Rights activist Clarence Henderson, a participant in the Feb. 1, 1960, sit-in at a Greensboro, N.C., Woolworth lunch counter. “A WRAL cartoon depicted my good friend, Mark Robinson, as a Klansman simply because he refuses to rubber stamp the leftist agenda promoted by their liberal organization.”
In an email from the North Carolina Faith and Freedom Coalition, Henderson said, “It’s heartbreaking how, even after 61 years, we’re still having to fight to have a black man protect his seat at the table. As we celebrate black history month, we should be promoting, not silencing, voices like Mark Robinson’s, our state’s first black Lieutenant Governor!”
Similar to Henderson’s defense of independent thinking, Robinson has said that North Carolina schools need to teach children “how to think and not what to think.”
He told reporters that his major opposition to proposed social studies standards is that they call our nation “systemically racist.”
“Are there racists now? Yes. Have there been racists in our history? Yes. Have they done vile and evil and disgusting things? Yes. Were they dealt with? Yes. Have we overcome them to a large extent? We have, and we are still working in every single segment in our community to root out racism and run it out of every institution in America that it may be in,” Robinson said. “But we are using the American system of government to do that. We are using our court systems and our laws and the words on our founding documents to do that … And that’s the argument that I have.”
He said rather than publishing hypocritical and divisive cartoons, members of the media like Draughon, who also teaches eighth-grade history, according to the Smithfield Middle School website, should be having intelligent and logical conversations about the curriculum issue.
“I am willing to talk to anyone who wants to work on these social studies standards. In fact, that is what we are doing. The NAACP has made known that they don’t agree with my stance on it,” Robinson said. “To this point, the NAACP and I have had an intelligent conversation about this.”
“This,” he said, pointing to the cartoon, “is not an intelligent conversation.”
Seth Effron, opinion editor for Capitol Broadcasting, which owns WRAL, released this statement: “Editorial cartoons are creative and provocative, using hyperbole and satire. No one believes Republicans on the State Board of Education are members of the Ku Klux Klan. The editorial cartoon by Dennis Draughon is meant to point out that these members of the State Board are trying to wipe out from the social studies curriculum the record of racism which includes the Klan and the segregationist practices that were imposed in our state and nation’s history.”
“I think Efron’s response on behalf of WRAL is disingenuous. The cartoon isn’t simply suggesting the Lieutenant Governor and GOP members of the State Board are trying to ‘wipe out’ from the social studies standards the nation’s sad and egregious past of racism. Instead, it accuses them of being like the Klan and Segregationist of yesteryear because they oppose the curriculum. The image is meant to depict those who oppose Critical Race Theory and other erroneous approaches to racial justice in the state as racist themselves. That is most unfair and unproductive to a civil conversation. It works against racial reconciliation and fans the fires of racial division, which like the Lieutenant Governor and GOP members of the State Board, I believe, the curriculum itself does. If you disagree with the curriculum’s assertions, you are a racist – you are the problem. You deserve to be lampooned for the backwater, hate-filled, bigot that you supposedly are. It’s a terrible lie straight out of the pit of hell. It’s a form of character assassination.”
The state Board of Education may vote on the standards this week.