AMERICA DIDN'T GIVE UP ON COVID 19, REPUBLICANS DID: At the beginning of this year Donald Trump’s reelection message was all about economic triumphalism: Unemployment was low, stocks were up, and he was counting on good numbers to carry him through November. He and his officials wasted crucial weeks refusing to acknowledge the viral threat because they didn’t want to hear any bad news. And they pushed for premature reopening because they wanted things to return to what they seemed to be back in February. Indeed, just a few days ago the same Trump officials who initially assured us that COVID-19 was no big deal were out there dismissing the risks of a second wave. I’d suggest, however, that the GOP’s coronavirus denial also has roots that go beyond Trump and his electoral prospects. The key point, I’d argue, is that COVID-19 is like climate change: It isn’t the kind of menace the party wants to acknowledge. It’s not that the right is averse to fearmongering. But it doesn’t want you to fear impersonal threats that require an effective policy response, not to mention inconveniences like wearing face masks; it wants you to be afraid of people you can hate — people of a different race or supercilious liberals.
SUPREME COURT'S DISCRIMINATION RULING AN IMPORTANT STEP FOR PEOPLE LIKE ME: Something pretty significant happened last week, but because we’re living an episode of the Twilight Zone, it faded from the news fairly quickly. The U.S. Supreme Court historically afforded non-discrimination protection for LGBTQ employees. It caught many, me included, by surprise. I anticipated the Court would narrowly rule that Title VII protections don’t apply to sexual orientation and gender identification. There wasn’t much reason to expect otherwise, given the supposed precision Donald Trump exercised packing the court with conservative robots. Fortunately for our nation, he screwed that up, too. Dissenting justices Alito, Thomas and Cavanaugh did their best Sergeant Schultz impressions by continuing to argue that a statute’s words can only mean what they meant to those who wrote them, when they were written. That’s befuddling, because every time our founders wrote things like “all men are created equal” and “justice for all,” I’m pretty sure they didn’t have women in mind. And they sure weren’t talking about blacks. There are literally signs everywhere we’re at a crossroads in our nation’s history. The choices are to support the notion of equality, liberty and justice for all, or not to. The court has taken us one important step farther in the right direction. For those of you upset about the government now having more power to tell you what you can and can’t do as individuals, I recommend finding a mentor with experience on how to cope. Just ask anyone who is LGBTQ, non-Caucasian, or has a uterus. We have more than a century of experience and we’ll be glad to walk you through this.
NO EXCUSES! BACK LEANDRO IMPLEMENTATION NOW: Last week the plaintiffs and defendants in the landmark Leandro case filed their action plan to implement the court’s order to provide a “sound basic education for all.” It is worth repeating that this plan is another step following the landmark ruling 23 years ago, that North Carolina’s Constitution promised EVERY child the opportunity to a quality education – and that North Carolina is failing to meet that right. Legislation has been introduced (House Bill 1129 and House Bill 1130) that largely implements the recommendations in the report filed last week. House Speaker Tim Moore immediately sent the bills to the House Rules Committee – a first step that is usually a form of banishment for legislation the leadership wants to languish. More than 160 of the 192 bills pending in the committee have been there since last year – the oldest going back to St. Valentine’s Day 2019. These bills – and the state constitutional obligation they are aimed at fulfilling, deserve to be heard and voted upon. The legislature’s education and appropriations-education committees should hold hearings on these bills and the court-approved Leandro plan. North Carolinians deserve to hear about the right of their children to receive a quality education. They need to know what needs to be done to accomplish it. Most significantly, they deserve to have their legislators held accountable for either delivering on our Constitution’s promise or deny it.
HOW THE REPUBLICAN PARTY BECAME A DEATH CULT: This outcome is the triumph of Republicans’ tribal politics, in which identification with the cult and assault on the truth win out over common sense, science and even self-preservation. To be a Republican — at least in the eyes of millions of them — means to adopt illogical, anti-factual beliefs and oppositional conduct. You cannot take seriously the threats of climate change or the novel coronavirus because … well, because that is not what Republicans do, and to do otherwise would be to concede that the dreaded radical left and elites (presumably one can be both) are right. At the extremes, Republicans will engage in objectively destructive conduct to prove their point — hoarding hydroxychloroquine even if the Food and Drug Administration says the drug is ineffective or dangerous, and, of course, going without masks. If Republicans are willing to go maskless at their peril, then they are willing to believe or disbelieve anything to stay within the cult. Is it any wonder that these people insist Trump never committed impeachable acts, did a swell job on the pandemic, sounds lucid and is not corrupt? But this is not an acceptable state of affairs for a self-governing people. Authoritarian regimes flourish when objective truth is under assault and leaders manipulate reality. For democracies, however, the result is frightful when a significant segment of the public remains unpersuaded by facts and logic and refuses to hold leaders accountable for their actions. Perhaps a massive defeat in November will snap Republicans out of their trance. If not, the dysfunction, anger, corruption and self-destructive conduct of millions of voters and their party of choice will continue. That bodes ill for addressing the very real problems we collectively face.
YOU WANT A CONFEDERATE MONUMENT? MY BODY IS A CONFEDERATE MONUMENT: I am a black, Southern woman, and of my immediate white male ancestors, all of them were rapists. My very existence is a relic of slavery and Jim Crow. It is an extraordinary truth of my life that I am biologically more than half white, and yet I have no white people in my genealogy in living memory. No. Voluntary. Whiteness. I am more than half white, and none of it was consensual. White Southern men — my ancestors — took what they wanted from women they did not love, over whom they had extraordinary power, and then failed to claim their children. What is a monument but a standing memory? An artifact to make tangible the truth of the past. My body and blood are a tangible truth of the South and its past. The black people I come from were owned by the white people I come from. The white people I come from fought and died for their Lost Cause. And I ask you now, who dares to tell me to celebrate them? Who dares to ask me to accept their mounted pedestals?
You cannot dismiss me as someone who doesn’t understand. You cannot say it wasn’t my family members who fought and died. My blackness does not put me on the other side of anything. It puts me squarely at the heart of the debate. I don’t just come from the South. I come from Confederates. I’ve got rebel-gray blue blood coursing my veins. My great-grandfather Will was raised with the knowledge that Edmund Pettus was his father. Pettus, the storied Confederate general, the grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, the man for whom Selma’s Bloody Sunday Bridge is named. So I am not an outsider who makes these demands. I am a great-great-granddaughter. Among the apologists for the Southern cause and for its monuments, there are those who dismiss the hardships of the past. They imagine a world of benevolent masters, and speak with misty eyes of gentility and honor and the land. They deny plantation rape, or explain it away, or question the degree of frequency with which it occurred. To those people it is my privilege to say, I am proof. I am proof that whatever else the South might have been, or might believe itself to be, it was and is a space whose prosperity and sense of romance and nostalgia were built upon the grievous exploitation of black life. The dream version of the Old South never existed.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
LAURIE MCDOWELL: GOP LEADERS' IRRESPONSIBILITY IS MAKING PANDEMIC WORSE: Gov. Cooper is making the hard decisions to keep North Carolinians safe, decisions which will surely be distorted in campaign ads this fall. Instead of suing him over his executive decisions, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and other “open up” people should be demanding that our government respond with financial assistance to help the people of North Carolina through this crisis. This is our tax money, intended to be used for crises such as this. Instead, our legislature refuses to discuss further relief measures. All the while, many of these “law and order” Republicans defy state and local requirements to wear masks.
MARK BARTON: THIS REPUBLICAN REFUSES TO VOTE FOR TRUMP: I proudly voted for Republican presidential candidates from Reagan through Romney. But I cannot vote for President Trump. I believe he is a danger to our democracy. He seeks to undermine the independence of the Department of Justice, military, and other crucial American institutions. He endangers our nation by mocking our allies and embracing dictators from Russia, China, and North Korea. He uses American generals for photo ops, but he won’t listen to them. He added to the national debt even in times of high employment and prosperity by cutting taxes, mostly for the wealthy. These are not Republican principles. He has ignored science and shown no leadership in dealing with COVID-19. He has divided, rather than unified, America as we confront a crisis of racial injustice. Our country can’t take four more years of this.
TODD WALL: THE CHALLENGE OF BEING A BLACK TEEN: I am concerned about the safety of Durham’s young black men. I am 16, a good student and an athlete. I’ve been a Boy Scout since I was six. My parents tell me I am a great kid. However, their anxiety level rises every time I leave the house. They run through a checklist to confirm that my appearance will not pose a threat to law enforcement or any anxious gun carrying citizen. At a time when I should be getting to know myself, it isn’t safe for me to express myself in public. I cannot wear expensive shoes or drive a stylish car because police may mistake me for a drug dealer. My parents won’t let me pierce my ears, get a tattoo or wear hoodies because people may perceive me as being a troublemaker. I have to hide my blackness and blend in as a shade of gray. Why does society make being black so hard? Why can’t life be more like Martin Luther King’s dream where I am not judged by the color of my skin but by the content of my character?