Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


POLITICS, MORE THAN PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND STUDENTS, ARE TRUITT'S PRIORITY: On two occasions, her views were expressed as part of the legislative leadership and partisan caucuses promotional statements. It was through a news release from House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland on May 11, that Truitt said she supported the legislation. “We want to encourage students to think freely and respect differences of opinion while ensuring our classrooms are not promoting ideas contrary to the equality and rights of all,” she said in the GOP release. “There is no room for divisive rhetoric that condones preferential treatment of any one group over another.” Those comments were repeated a day later in a House GOP caucus news release crowing about barring what they called “discriminatory concepts” from classrooms after the bill was passed on a 66-48 partisan vote. Regardless of Truitt’s stand on this legislation, her behavior has demonstrated that she and her office are simply extensions of the dictates of the current legislative leadership.

THE MECKLENBURG DECLARATION WAS ABOUT FREEDOM. FOR WHITE PEOPLE: Tradition holds that on May 20, 1775, a group of Mecklenburg County leaders produced the American colonies’ first official declaration of separation from Great Britain, pronouncing themselves “a free and independent people.” Just as the Declaration of Independence did not free any of the several hundred thousand residents of African descent enslaved in the American colonies in 1776, the Meck Dec sparked no local move toward freedom. In 1790, the first U.S. census reported 14 percent of Mecklenburg County residents as enslaved. Sixty years later, that ratio had grown to 40 percent. Slavery’s proponents justified this omission by arguing that Africans were a lesser race, not worthy of the same rights bestowed on Europeans. This contradiction is as much a part of North Carolina history as the sentiments expressed in the Meck Dec. Even if the Declaration is in fact authentic, the validity of the slogan “First in Freedom” depends entirely on whose freedom counts. Our times require an examination of our past that underscores the effort that has been required to extend the benefits of freedom to all people, the sources of resistance to that expansion, and all that remains to be done to fulfill the Declaration’s ideals. Rather than division or chagrin, such an examination can produce collective determination to do better.

AFTER PIPELINE FAILURE, IT'S TIME FOR NC TO TRANSITION TO ELECTRIC SCHOOL BUSES: The solution to this part of the “crisis” is to move toward broad adoption of electric-powered school buses. They are the perfect application. They never travel far from a fuel source. They are idle for extended periods – allowing for re-charging. Fuel costs are SIGNIFICANTLY lower with the bonus of reduced petroleum fuel consumption and less carbon pollution. More-so, one of the chief manufacturers, Thomas Built Buses is headquartered in High Point and this would be an initiative helping a home-grown business. Last month, Vice President Kamala Harris toured the Thomas plant. She called it “a model for the world.” Transitioning to more electric school buses is no small matter. Every school day more than 14,000 buses shuttle nearly 800,000 students to and from the state’s public schools. These buses will travel a total of 181.3 million miles in a year – about to the Sun and back. These buses will burn $154 million in petroleum fuel a year – 85 cents a mile. If they were all electric, fuel costs would be a mere $34.4 million at 19 cents per mile. Do this now, so that if, and when there is the next gasoline panic or pipeline disruption it won’t stop kids from getting to school for their lessons, not to mention also saving taxpayers’ money.

POLICE "DEAD OR ALIVE" MENTALITY IS WHAT KILLED ANDREW BROWN: Sometimes good policing means letting a suspect escape. When officers instead pursue a fleeing suspect and end up killing him, prosecutors can face a difficult question: Was the killing justified? Yet another district attorney has answered this question the wrong way — revealing once again how Black lives not mattering is embedded in routine practices by police and prosecutors. Seven law enforcement officers went to Andrew Brown Jr.’s home in Elizabeth City, N.C., to execute arrest and search warrants for nonviolent drug crimes. The cops found Brown in his car; 44 seconds later, they shot him dead — in the back of the head. What’s clear is that this death did not need to happen. Two officers positioned themselves in front of Brown’s car, and then used their vulnerability as an excuse to kill him. Womble claimed the police were “duty-bound to stand their ground, carry through on the performance of their duties and take Andrew Brown into custody.” This “dead or alive” mentality may be the law of old western movies, but the Constitution does not support it. Just because someone resists arrest or tries to escape police custody does not entitle the police to kill. The law requires police act reasonably, in light of all the circumstances, including the crime the person is suspected of, and the danger he poses. The reasonable thing, in this case, would be for the cops to get out of the way and let Brown escape. They could have arrested him another time; they knew where he lived and what his car looked like. Brown was wanted for nonviolent drug offenses, hardly a crime that justifies killing a suspect to prevent him from escaping.

END THE COURT DOCTRINE THAT ENABLES POLICE BRUTALITY: Qualified immunity arose out of an 1871 civil rights law that made government officials, including police officers, financially liable for violating a person’s constitutional rights. In a series of rulings starting in the late 1960s, the Supreme Court decided that an officer is immune from liability unless it can be shown that he or she broke “clearly established” law in the process. The burden is on the plaintiff to make this showing, and the bar is absurdly high: If no other court has previously ruled in a case involving an essentially identical set of facts, the law is determined to be not “clearly established.” Examples of courts splitting hairs to give a pass to even egregious misconduct abound: the prison guard who pepper-sprayed an inmate in the face “for no reason at all”; the officer who fired at a nonthreatening dog and missed, accidentally hitting a 10-year-old child lying nearby on the ground; the officers who stole $225,000 in cash and rare coins while executing a search warrant; the officer who shot a 14-year-old boy after he had dropped a BB gun and raised his hands. In practice, qualified immunity has become what Justice Sonia Sotomayor has called an “absolute shield” that “tells officers that they can shoot first and think later, and it tells the public that palpably unreasonable conduct will go unpunished.” The Supreme Court started this mess, and it could just as easily end it. But despite a few recent cryptic opinions, meaningful reform doesn’t appear to be in the cards. The more immediate solution is legislative. Congress is currently considering the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a far-reaching bill addressing racial discrimination and excessive force by law enforcement officers. One provision would eliminate the “clearly established” defense and prevent cops from relying on their own belief that their conduct was lawful. Unfortunately, that has become the bill’s main sticking point, as most Republicans have sided with police unions in opposing any liability for individual officers.


JANICE WOYCHICK: WAIVING INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY CONSTRAINTS ON VACCINES IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO: Regarding “U.S. backs waiving intellectual property rules on vaccines,” (May 6): The technology to develop the Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines came about because of financial support from NIH. Those are our tax dollars. Moderna recognizes this and isn’t resisting sharing its technology. This is an unprecedented world health crisis. and this makes sense. For those who remember polio, neither Jonas Salk nor Albert Sabin benefited financially from their vaccines. Salk refused to patent his. Sabin donated his strains to the World Health Organization. Sharing this technology with mankind was considered sensible and protective of U.S. interests. So deciding to share COVID vaccine technology has financial and ethical precedent.

STEPHEN BERG: REPUBLICAN MEMBERS OF NC'S CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION FAIL DEMOCRACY TEST: Seven of N.C.’s. eight Republican U.S. House members participated in an attempt to disenfranchise millions of voters in the 2020 election. Now, these same representatives voted against the formation of a bipartisan committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. We need not wring our hands to plumb the depths of their motivation. They can’t be trusted, and it is a waste of everyone’s time to treat them as stakeholders in the future of our nation’s democracy and honest brokers of the needs of North Carolina voters. In seeking to protect the man who actively encouraged the insurrection, they are co-conspirators and collaborators. But we knew that already.

DR. CONNIE BISHOP: CONFEDERATE STATUE NEEDS TO BE REMOVED: I can’t be silent anymore. The statue is a source of controversy. It is a symbol of a past that is painful to a number of our citizens. If you're white, you see the history of the glorious South. If you are African American or a person of color, you see slavery, repression and continued discrimination. It is time to move forward. It is time for our county commissioners to stop acting like ostriches and hoping the controversy goes away. It is time to recognize that white privilege is real. It is time to remove a symbol in front of our courthouse that does not represent equal justice or treatment under the law. And while the hiring of a fired Greensboro police officer by the Graham PD may be unrelated, it is not a good look in the current environment even with the explanation offered by the police chief. I beg the county commissioners to quit hiding behind state law. Other cities/towns have figured out how to remove these statues. I believe the tax dollars spent on building a permanent fence and the impending lawsuit is a waste of taxpayer dollars. I think the commissioners need to do a serious reflection on their thinking and position on the statue. I can’t be silent anymore. I plan to make "good trouble" on this issue in my small way. And I remind us that even Silent Sam has been removed.



Living the Meme life...

First let me say, there is nothing inherently wrong with sharing thoughtful messages. We could probably do with a lot more of them, as long as they aren't crafted by a shiny turd like Joel Osteen, who could comfortably house 1,000 homeless people in his sprawling compound.

These meme messages are handy, usually brief, and can be shared instantly with the click of a button. But that doesn't mean they are correct, or don't contain gaping flaws in logic and/or grammar. A friend shared this a few days ago:

"Today is the 21st day, of the 21st week, of the 21st year, of the 21st Century."

You should have already figured it out, but: a week only has 7 days. While you can intuit what was originally meant, whatever corrections you would insert to make it accurate would take the zazz out of the meme. People like zazz, apparently more than accuracy.

And then there are the completely math-deprived memes, like this one:

"There are 21 million penguins in Antarctica and the population of Ireland is 6.6 million, so if all the penguins in Antarctica decided to invade Ireland, each person would have to fight off over 3 million penguins."

They would only have to fight 7 penguins each, and of course said penguins would be tired as hell from the swim. That's an extreme example, but I have seen friends post ones almost as bad.

And then there are the fortune cookie-level religious inspiration memes:

"You are about to receive some good news. God is fixing your situation. You are coming into a new season of blessings. You're going to be notified that something has worked in your favor. Get ready for it!"

That's not how any of this works. It might seem like a harmless message, and I generally try to avoid criticizing folks if they are not attacking some already marginalized group. But at its core, this is a self-centered posting, and it reeks of prosperity gospel influence.

I will finish with this, before I step on too many toes: All forms of communication are important, and can either enhance or degrade the "value" of your opinion. Especially if you consider yourself an advocate for causes, take some time to contemplate that message before you click "Share." You won't regret exercising that discretion, I promise you.