Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


EXPAND VOTING OPPORTUNITIES, DON'T LIMIT THEM: Current state law requires any mail-in ballots to be postmarked on Election Day AND be received by the local board of elections within three days – unless they are sent from those in the military service or overseas. Now, the folks who run the legislature noticed that 45% of the nearly 1.1 million North Carolinians who voted by mail were Democrats compared to a mere 21% being Republicans. Now they want to command that ALL mail-in ballots must be received ON election day. The impact would be significant. They really think they’d be curtailing Democratic votes. But the reality is that there’s no telling which voters cast ballots when. There is no reason to set this date other than to deny some voters a chance to cast ballots. Votes aren’t officially counted for several days after Election Day – with the official canvass. The REAL votes for president aren’t cast until the Electoral College meets on the Monday after the second Wednesday in December, as set by federal law.

NC REPUBLICANS JUST EXPOSED THEIR OWN SCHOOL VOUCHER SCAM: Senate leader Phil Berger has long described the school voucher program he pushed through in 2013 as a way to enable poor families to afford private school tuition. Now that claim is being dropped in favor of offering vouchers to families earning well over the state’s median income. Eligibility for a state-supported voucher has risen since the program was initiated and now may rise again. On Tuesday, state Senate Republicans passed a bill that will increase the current $4,200 voucher cap by $1,650 and raise the level of income eligibility as well. Under Senate Bill 671, a family of four would qualify with an income as high as $85,794. The median income for a family of four in North Carolina is $87,505. The bill passed 29-20, with all Republicans and one Democrat, Sen. Kirk deViere of Cumberland County, voting for it. The idea isn’t to give children a chance to escape a high-poverty public school. That was a pretext. The real idea is to eventually give parents of all incomes a chance to send their children to private schools at the public’s expense. That approach undermines public schools. But that’s the point. Those who would privatize K-12 education first have to break confidence in public schools. The worse the public schools become, the greater the need for a private option.

BODY CAM VIDEO RELEASE IS KEY TO GOVERNMENT TRANSPARENCY: Transparency, openness, accountability, those are critical ingredients to citizens having faith their government operates in their best interest. Unfortunately, state Superior Court Judge Jeff Foster doesn’t hold as strongly to those elements as do some local leaders in Elizabeth City and Pasquotank County. In response to requests from local officials and news organizations seeking release of the body-cam video of the shooting and killing of Andrew Brown Jr. two weeks ago by Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies, the judge found excuses to keep them under wraps. Elizabeth City Mayor Bettie Parker is rightly worried about the faith the citizens of her town can have in their community’s leadership and the city’s police. Tension and protests – mostly peaceful so far -- continue following the shooting. The city has been under a curfew for more than a week. It takes transparency and openness to show citizens that their public officials, and those who work on their behalf, are doing their jobs properly and in the public interest. That is the MOST important reason and one that overrides all others to release the body-cam videos of the sheriff’s deputies and the shooting of Andrew Brown.

MOTHER'S DAY IS GUILT WRAPPED AS A GIFT: When our kids were young, I objected to the lopsided binary that Mother’s Day enshrines, because I wanted (1) my husband to be an equal parent and (2) my children to learn that both parents can apply a Band-Aid, fill out a school form, get dinner on the table and, perhaps most important, sometimes be too busy to do any of that. Our own results were mixed. Every move toward equality that depended on my husband doing things — changing diapers, taking the kids to birthday parties, vacuuming — worked like a charm. Every move that depended on my not doing things — not being available to my kids, not letting their schedules dictate my schedule, not putting their needs at the center of my life — did not go so well. On a societal level, it is no better and maybe worse. Mothers still tend to take on more than their share of child care, housework and the “mental load” of keeping track of parenting tasks (appointment-making, carpooling, present-buying, camp-registering). Women are still far more likely than men to be parenting full-time. Even when both parents work, when someone has to take care of the kids — such as during a pandemic — women are far more likely to put aside their jobs and their careers. In other words, we are still organizing our society in such a way as to require the maternal sacrifices that, once a year, we reward with brunch. But I still believe that celebrating mothers as a special category of parent reinforces the cultural assumption that women can and should do more than their fair share. And that, in turn, conveniently explains why they do. So, for Mother’s Day this year, I am wishing for an enlightened future in which gender has no bearing on the rights and responsibilities of parenthood.

IS AMERICA A RACIST COUNTRY? THE ANSWER IS "YES": When people say that America is a racist country, they don’t necessarily mean that all or even most Americans are consciously racist. However, it is important to remember that nearly half the country just voted for a full-on racist in Donald Trump, and they did so by either denying his racism, becoming apologists for it, or applauding it. What do you call a country thus composed? Historically, however, there is no question that the country was founded by racists and white supremacists, and that much of the early wealth of this country was built on the backs of enslaved Africans, and much of the early expansion came at the expense of the massacre of the land’s Indigenous people and broken treaties with them. Eight of the first 10 presidents personally enslaved Africans. In 1856, the chief justice of the United States wrote in the infamous ruling on the Dred Scott case that Black people “had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” Some will concede the historical point and insist on the progress point, arguing that was then and this is now, that racism simply doesn’t exist now as it did then. I would agree. American racism has evolved and become less blunt, but it has not become less effective. The knife has simply been sharpened. Now systems do the work that once required the overt actions of masses of individual racists. So, what does it mean for a system to be racist? Does the appellation depend on the system in question being openly, explicitly racist from top to bottom, or simply that there is some degree of measurable bias embedded in those systems? I assert the latter. America is not the same country it was, but neither is it the country it purports to be. On some level this is a tension between American idealism and American realism, between an aspiration and a current condition. And the precise way we phrase the statement makes all the difference: America’s systems — like its criminal justice, education and medical systems — have a pro-white/anti-Black bias, and an extraordinary portion of America denies or defends those biases. As Mark Twain once put it: “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’Tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”


LLOYD KRAMER: REPUBLICANS HAVE NO BUSINESS PREACHING TO TEACHERS ABOUT "FACTS": Republican-sponsored legislation in the N.C. legislature seeks to achieve “academic transparency” by requiring teachers to provide an online posting of lesson plans. The goal is to assure parents that students are not taught to “believe something other than the facts.” This ”Academic Transparency” bill is advancing while most Republicans and many of their Congressional leaders continue to promote the Big Lie that Donald Trump “won” the 2020 presidential election. Meanwhile, some Republican legislators in other states are promoting the absurd claim that the Three-Fifths clause in the original US Constitution — which counted enslaved people as 3/5 a person for the census while also denying them every right of citizenship — was actually part of a long-term plan to abolish slavery. What will happen when unhappy politicians or parents denounce teachers who rightly condemn such falsehoods as blatant historical lies? Will legislators be required to explain why they “believe something other than the facts?”

KIM MACKEY: WE NEED TO INCREASE INVESTMENTS IN OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS: As North Carolina celebrates Apple’s growth in the Triangle, public school supporters like me hope the same zeal is shown by state government in investing in the apples of our eyes — students. As a mom of two elementary-aged students, I care deeply about ensuring we’re recruiting and retaining the best educators. As a public school teacher, I know relying on intelligent idealists to sacrifice their own financial self-interests is reaching a breaking point. We need more counselors, nurses, psychologists and social workers so we can be proactive instead of reactive in supporting healthy development. We need to return full-time teaching assistants to our earliest grades and offer at least $15 per hour to all those supporting student learning. We need a teacher salary schedule that values veteran educators, instead of one that incentivizes 15-year contract workers by flattening salaries after that. I look forward to state leaders celebrating investment in our schools as much as they do landing 3,000 Apple jobs.

MARYJANE SELGRADE: CHILD MARRIAGE BILL AMENDMENTS ARE ATROCIOUS: The watering down of N.C. Senate Bill 35, originally intended to stop children under 18 from marrying in North Carolina, is beyond disappointing. (April 30) Sen. Danny Britt thinks the watered down bill would still prevent the state from being a destination for those from out-of-state. While it might eliminate marriages with the most egregious age disparities, the fact that Alaska is the only other state that allows children to marry at age 14 suggests N.C. will still have this dubious reputation. It also does little to protect children. The bill would still allow 14-year-olds to marry if their parents “approve” and allow children over 14 who become pregnant or have a child to marry the father if a judge rules “the marriage is in the best interest of the children.” In what world would it be in the best interest of a 14-year-old to marry? No 14-year-old, pregnant or not, should be pressured by parents or anyone else to marry. Hopefully, a similar bill (HB 41) will gain traction and do a better job of protecting N.C. children, particularly girls.



Happy Reductive Role In Society Day!

Just kidding. But seriously. For those mothers who cherish this day, you may want to stop reading now. Or maybe you need this more than others? Whatever the case, let me lead this off with a 2019 headline from NBC, Americans aren't making enough babies to replace ourselves:

For the population to reproduce itself at current numbers, the “total fertility rate” needs to be 2,100 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age over their lifetime, researchers for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in their report, released early Thursday. But the latest data show a current rate of just 1,765.5 per 1,000, or 16 percent below the number needed to keep the population stable without additions through immigration.

Um, so what? Aside from the fact that a slightly declining population would put less stress on the environment via a reduction in resource consumption, sending some kind of doomsday message that each woman needs to squirt out 2.1 babies is frankly a horrific observation that will only serve to reinforce the social trauma women have been subjected to for centuries.

Which leads me to my next gripe: You should never (ever) ask a woman if she has any children. A few minutes of conversation will usually reveal that anyway, which itself is a shame, because that means she either felt compelled to reveal that, or her life is dominated by motherhood to the point her other interests are nominal in comparison. Or both.

A woman may be wildly successful in her profession, but if she is childless, society considers that to be a failure of some sort. And they eye her profession, along with her desire to succeed in it, as the root cause of her failure to procreate. And worst of all, the constant buzz of that patently absurd assessment causes many of those women to actually believe it after awhile. Shame on us.

Republicans would have us wish "Happy Mother's Day!" to a 15 year-old who married her statutory rapist. They would have us wish "Happy Mother's Day!" to a woman forced to bring a Downs Syndrome child to full term. Because to them, women are merely a vessel, a machine that makes babies on demand, and all other thoughts and dreams they may have are inconsequential.

We (as Democrats) must oppose those misogynistic policies, at every turn. But we also need to oppose the faulty narratives that help to spawn such suppressive and sexist viewpoints.