VIRGINIA MOVES AHEAD OF NORTH CAROLINA, AGAIN: Repeatedly over the last decade congressional and legislative districts have been declared illegal and legislators have been forced to redraw them. It has been a needless cycle that denied North Carolinians the voice they deserve in Washington and Raleigh. The remedy, adoption of a nonpartisan system for drawing legislative and congressional districts, is way past due. It is a proven workable solution that has strong support from voters – 59% according to a recent statewide survey. Four of North Carolina’s former governors, two Republicans and two Democrats, have called on the courts to mandate the state implement “an open, transparent, and non-partisan process.” This year a 16-member commission of citizens and legislators -- equally divided between Democrats and Republicans – will redraw Virginia’s districts when the 2020 Census count is finalized.
MARK ROBINSON NEEDS TO STOP HARASSING NC TEACHERS WITH HIS "INDOCTRINATION" POLICE: Robinson knows there are doubters about such indoctrination. “People say, ‘Well, where’s the proof?’ Where’s the proof?’ ” he said. “We’re going to bring you the proof.” No he’s not. Robinson is going to bring us a collection of random anecdotes from people who don’t think their political or religious views are being reflected in a certain school or by a certain teacher. Collecting those complaints through a quasi-official state task force isn’t about proving a problem. It’s about harassing and intimidating teachers. By now Robinson’s ability to surprise by being extreme is wearing thin. Still, it is stunning that after what may be the most trying year in the history of public schools, the lieutenant governor thinks his top priority should be challenging the motives of teachers and fueling paranoia about schools indoctrinating children. If Robinson really cares about the quality of public schools, there is no shortage of steps to advocate. Bring teacher pay up to the national average. Restore the thousands of teacher assistants lost to funding cuts. Provide nationally recommended levels of school counselors, nurses and psychologists. Pass a statewide bond to renovate aging school buildings. Most of all, what Robinson and many Republican state lawmakers should do is stop demonizing teachers because they want decent pay and the freedom to teach the truth about the nation’s triumphs and its failures.
NC ELECTIONS OFFICIALS DID A GREAT JOB IN 2020. PROVIDE WHAT'S NEEDED TO DO EVEN BETTER: Amid one of the worst health crises faced by the state and nation – when the kinds of personal actions and interactions that voting necessitates were the most challenged – the state set records in the number of people eligible to vote (7.4 million); the number of people who cast ballots (5.5 million) and saw the greatest share of eligible voters participate (75.4%). That is a huge accomplishment not just in overcoming the monumental challenge of the pandemic, but also the unprecedented flood of voters who tested the technical and human capacity of dealing with the tsunami of ballots cast by mail and early via in-person voting. More than 57,000 individuals responded to state and local boards of elections calls for help. More than 30,000 people helped with outreach to senior citizen communities, those with disabilities and others who needed assistance or information about voting. Those efforts didn’t go unnoticed. The State Board of Elections was nationally recognized for its “best practices in recruiting, retaining and training poll workers” for its “Democracy Heroes” program by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
I GREW UP IN THE SOUTH AS AN ASIAN AMERICAN. IT WAS CLEAR I WASN'T WELCOME: We were one of the first Asian families to settle in a predominantly White neighborhood, and our neighbors saw to it that we were not welcome. The expansive oak tree that spread its branches over our front lawn was repeatedly toilet-papered by the neighborhood kids, often before a rainstorm. Then the sodden toilet paper — too high to reach, too messy even to bother — would fester on the branches in moldy wet clumps until they disintegrated on their own. The shoes we’d take off outside our door were once discovered with baked beans poured into each one, rendering them unwearable. The final straw was when we were “ding-dong-ditched.” My mother had opened the front door to see a brown paper bag sitting on the front doorstep. Inside it, a lump of feces. Unable to speak English, my mother called my name, demanding we go knocking on doors to find the culprit. I pleaded for her to calm down. I begged for her to stay silent. I didn’t want to be known as the kid whose mother threw a tantrum in an otherwise “peaceful” neighborhood. But I lost. My mother dragged me, her unwilling and humiliated translator, up and down our cul-de-sac. I remember the blank stares from our neighbors; their unapologetic, unsympathetic faces. “It was just a silly prank,” I translated their words. “You know how kids can be.” I apologized profusely on behalf of my mother to the parents, ashamed to have complained about what they, and consequently, I, believed to be an innocuous children’s game. Looking back, I now know that what my mother was seeking was accountability, any sort of acknowledgment, an apology. Yet, I was the one apologizing. Even after that incident, the hazing, the deliberate intimidation didn’t stop. A mother of one of the neighborhood kids drove her Ford Expedition down our street, stopped her car in front of our driveway and allowed four young girls cackling with excitement to jump out and scream, “Chinese fire drill! Chinese fire drill!” before taking off. I hid behind the window blinds, hoping they couldn’t see me. Our neighborhood had made it clear that it wasn’t okay to be me, so I tried my best to disappear.
POVERTY AS A PROXY FOR RACE IN VOTER SUPPRESSION: You just can’t be racist the way you used to. Monumental legal cases invoking the 14th Amendment, the “equal justice” amendment, have made it unconstitutional to use blunt, explicit racism to suppress and victimize Black people while elevating and advantaging white ones. To achieve those nefarious ends today, politicians must use a sneakier, less direct mechanism. And very often, that mechanism is to place burdens on the poorest citizens, knowing that poverty heavily afflicts — and can serve as a proxy for — Black people. That is exactly what is happening now as Republicans, still fuming about the loss of the White House and the Senate, rush to make it harder for people to vote — many of them Black and brown people. There are two ways to win an election: convince enough voters that you are best suited for the job, or rid the electorate of as many people who would vote against you as possible. What we are seeing across the country are effectively Republican attempts to resurrect a poll tax — to use poverty and income inequality (which white supremacy helps to create) to further racial oppression. We are witnessing attempts to use poverty and disadvantage as tools to silence voices. It is a further dehumanizing and delegitimizing of the poor. I’ll put it simply: Because Black people vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, Republicans don’t want as many Black people to vote. Donald Trump admitted as much in 2016, saying, according to Politico: “Many Blacks didn’t go out to vote for Hillary ’cause they liked me. That was almost as good as getting the vote, you know, and it was great.” Suppressing a Black vote is almost as good as earning a white one, and you don’t have to make any campaign promises when you do. Republicans don’t want to earn Black votes, they want to erase them. And to do that, they are using poverty as their proxy.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
STEPHEN BERG: NC'S REPUBLICANS CHOSE GUN RIGHTS FOR ABUSERS OVER PROTECTING WOMEN THEY THREATEN: The U.S. House voted Wednesday to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act and 29 Republicans broke with their party to support it. The bill offers women protections from domestic violence, sexual assault and other harassment. Provisions in it have widespread bipartisan support, including state grants for sexual assault and domestic violence services and housing assistance for domestic abuse survivors. The bill also closes the “boyfriend loophole,” preventing convicted abusers from obtaining a firearm. Unfortunately, North Carolina Republican Reps. Dan Bishop, Ted Budd, Madison Cawthorn, Virginia Foxx, Richard Hudson, Patrick McHenry, Greg Murphy and David Rouzer did not support the House bill. They’d rather protect gun rights than protect women from abusers who might be allowed to own firearms. Female voters in North Carolina need to protect themselves by not voting for these members of Congress. Their lives may depend on it.
MARIANNA CRANE: STOP SUPPRESSING NURSE PRACTITIONERS: Regarding “Lawmakers try again to pass bill giving nurses more power; doctors oppose it,” (March 15): Ever since I became a nurse practitioner in 1981, organized medicine has opposed independent practice by nurse practitioners. Yet, numerous studies show nurse practitioners and other advanced nurses deliver safe, appropriate healthcare. The N.C. Medical Society and other lobbying groups are protecting their monetary gains at the expense of safe, affordable and available healthcare across N.C. It’s time to pass a bill that permits advanced practice nurses to work without physician supervision. The health of our citizens depends on it.
BRANDON LEE: WE NEED LABOR UNIONS NOW MORE THAN EVER: The Democrats failed to increase the minimum wage, but in that failure there is a lesson: If we want the world we deserve, we need unions led by a cross section of the working class. The pandemic has made clear that all workers deserve at least $15 an hour and a fair process to unionize their workplace, but workers need the law on their side. The Protecting our Rights to Organize (PRO) ACT, now in the US Senate, is the labor reform that’s needed in 2021. This bill stops the misclassification of employees as “independent contractors,” strengthens the National Labor Relations Board, and prevents employers from intimidating union efforts. It’s time to shift wealth and power from the billionaires and corporations into the hands of working people. We do this by passing the PRO Act, unionizing our workplaces, and demanding the wages and working conditions we deserve.