The Fight for Voting Rights Is The Fight For Our Democracy

The Fight for Voting Rights Is The Fight For Our Democracy

July 7, 2021By Hillary Rodham Clinton

When Democrats in the Texas Legislature walked out of the capitol in May to stop a suite of anti-democratic voting laws, they cast a spotlight on a crisis that extends far beyond the Lone Star State. Since the 2020 election with its historic turnout, lawmakers across the country have introduced nearly 400 bills making it harder to vote: purging voters from the rolls, making it more difficult to register, cutting back on early and absentee voting, getting rid of ballot drop boxes, even banning giving out food or water to people waiting in line at the polls.  

Each of these proposals disproportionately prevents people of color from casting their ballots, and each is egregious in its own right.  (They also pose a question: If your best strategy for winning elections is to block huge swaths of the electorate from voting, what does that say about the strength of your candidates and policies?) Combined, they add up to an even bigger problem – one that encompasses redistricting, Trump’s “Big Lie” and the anti-majoritarianism we’re seeing from today’s Republican Party. We are witnessing a concerted attempt to destabilize the democratic process and delegitimize our multi-racial democracy, carried out in full view of the American people. As Democrats, it’s not enough to push back one law, one court case or even one election at a time. We need to fundamentally change the way we think about and fight back against this blatant, sweeping effort.

The fight to ensure that every citizen can vote and have their vote counted has long been the defining struggle of our country. This historical thread runs from the Civil War to the Thirteenth and 19th Amendments to the Civil Rights Movement. The Voting Rights Act, and the laws interpreting it, have been at the core of much of the progress we’ve made since its passage – a view that, until recently, was shared by Democrats and Republicans. I was in the U.S. Senate when we voted 98-0 to extend this landmark piece of legislation. We sifted through thousands of pages of evidence and heard hundreds of hours of testimony that showed just how desperately the Voting Rights Act was still needed. After our unanimous vote, the law was signed by a Republican president, George W. Bush.  

It’s heartbreaking and unacceptable that we once again find ourselves fighting the battles of the last two centuries. Today’s voting restrictions are no different from the Jim Crow past, replacing literacy tests and poll taxes with laws that, as one North Carolina judge put it in 2016, “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.” Much of the blame for this backsliding rests with the Supreme Court, which, thanks to the election of President Trump, is even more hostile to voting rights today than it was when it gutted a crucial provision of the Voting Rights Act in 2013. But the problem is more insidious.  

Thirty years ago, Republican operative Thomas Hofeller said, “I define redistricting as the only legalized form of vote-stealing left in the United States today.” He became the primary architect of Republicans’ gerrymandering strategy, collecting data on race and voting behavior, then drawing statehouse maps tailor-made to dilute the influence of Black voters. Groups like the Federalist Society have worked for years to pack the courts with judges more committed to appeasing powerful special interests than to championing the fundamental rights of the American people. The emboldening of white supremacists and conspiracy theorists during Trump’s campaign and time in the White House along with the international movement against liberal democracy have exacerbated this perfect storm. 

All of this has made it harder to vote, particularly for specific groups: people of color, students, the elderly and low-income Americans. This kind of disparity does not happen by accident. It reminds me of one of my favorite sayings from Arkansas: “You find a turtle on a fence post, it did not get there on its own.” It’s no coincidence that the restrictive voting laws passed by Republicans target people who are more likely to vote for Democrats.  

Voting rights should not be controversial – and for the majority of Americans, they aren’t. Yet we have members of Congress who are wildly out of the mainstream, who vote to overturn the results of an election, and who use their powerful platforms to spread lies and disinformation.  As a result, nearly two-thirds of Republicans now incorrectly believe President Biden was not legitimately elected.  They point to debunked claims of voter fraud, discounting the votes of millions of Americans, including 87% of Black voters.  

What happened on January 6th showed that these fanatical ideas can lead to real, even deadly harm. After the insurrection, I wrote about the failure of imagination that hindered our ability to prevent the violence in Washington. I quoted historian Taylor Branch, who asked in Isabel Wilkerson’s “Caste:” “If people were given the choice between democracy and whiteness, how many would choose whiteness?” The months that followed revealed the ugly truth of just how many elected officials in America would choose whiteness. 

In this pivotal moment for our democracy, people in every corner of our country are rightfully asking: “What can we do?”  The answer isn’t an easy one, because there is no one step that will solve this deep-seated problem. Passing laws like H.R. 1 (the For the People Act) and H.R. 4 (the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act) that make it easier to vote is an excellent start, but we can’t stop there. We need to call these attacks on voting what they are: part of a clear attempt to move away from a pluralistic, multi-racial democracy and toward white supremacist authoritarianism. We need to remain laser-focused on what’s at stake for democracy and people’s lives and refuse to allow Republicans to draw us into piecemeal fights over tactics and technicalities. Voters should have the ability – not just in principle, but in practice – to hold elected officials accountable in the voting booth. We should be doing everything we can to make it easier for eligible voters to cast their ballots.

When the people make their voices heard in an election, we should respect the results. These aren’t partisan statements; they’re attributes of a functioning democracy. Now is the time for anyone who cares about ours to stand up and fight for it using absolutely every tool in our toolbox: legislation, marching and protesting, speaking up, supporting people and groups advocating for a democracy that reflects the diversity of this country, and, yes, showing up to the polls at every election, not just the presidential ones. Democracies the world over have faced this challenge; how we respond will have a ripple effect around the globe.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is a former First Lady of the United States, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of State. She is a bestselling author, podcast host, and the first woman to receive a major party’s nomination for President of the United States. 

TEACHING AMERICAN HISTORY

NC Social Studies Standards 2021              Standards Development Process

Social Studies Curriculum 2021

The preamble, written by NC Superintendent of Public Instruction, Catherine Truitt, states that “the standards are a framework intended to teach the full spectrum of history to best help students learn and use the information they acquire in the course of learning experiences. However, it is important to remember that history itself doesn’t provide the sole explanation for why we have injustices, racism, and discrimination today, be they institutionalized or localized. Our human failings have at times taken the form of racism, xenophobia, nativism, extremism, and isolationism. We need to study history in order to understand how these situations developed, the harmful impact they caused, and the forces and actors that sometimes helped us move beyond these outcomes.”

3rd Grade SS Standards relating to race and history

3.B.1 Understand how values and beliefs of individuals and groups influence communities.

3.B.1.1 Explain how the values, beliefs, and cultures of various indigenous, religious, racial and other groups contribute to the development of local communities and the state.

3.B.1.2 Compare values, beliefs, cultural practices and traditions of various groups living in local and regional communities.

3.H.1 Understand how various people and historical events have shaped local communities.

3.H.1.1 Explain how the experiences and achievements of women, indigenous, religious, and racial groups have contributed to the development of the local community.

3.H.1.2 Explain the lasting impact historical events have had on local communities.

3.H.1.3 Use primary and secondary sources to compare multiple interpretations of various historical symbols and events in local communities.

High School American History 1 Standards  relating to race and history

AH.B.1 Evaluate American identity in terms of perspective, change, and continuity.

AH.B.1.1 Critique multiple perspectives of American identity in terms of American exceptionalism. AH.B.1.2 Critique multiple perspectives of American identity in terms of opportunity, prosperity, and crisis.

AH.B.1.3 Critique multiple perspectives of American identity in terms of oppression, stereotypes, diversity, inclusion, and exclusion.

AH.B.1.4 Critique multiple perspectives of American identity in terms of individualism and conformity. AH.B.1.5 Explain how various immigrant experiences have influenced American identity.

AH.B.1.6 Explain how the experiences and achievements of minorities and marginalized peoples have contributed to American identity over time in terms of the struggle against bias, racism, oppression, and discrimination.

AH.B.1.7 Explain how slavery, xenophobia, disenfranchisement, and intolerance have affected individual and group perspectives of themselves as Americans.

AH.C&G.1 Evaluate the relationship between the American people and the government in terms of freedom, equality, and power.

AH.C&G.1.1 Explain how various views on freedom and equality contributed to the development of American political thought and system of government.

AH.C&G.1.2 Critique the extent to which various levels of government used power to expand or restrict the freedom and equality of American people.

AH.C&G.1.3 Explain how various individuals and groups strategized, organized, advocated and protested to expand or restrict freedom and equality.

AH.C&G.1.4 Explain how racism, oppression, and discrimination of indigenous peoples, racial minorities, and other marginalized groups have impacted equality and power in America

Critical Race Theory (CRT) is a <college level> academic discipline that examines how American racism has shaped law and public policy. CRT emerged in the legal academy in the 1980 as an offshoot of critical legal studies. (NC Policy Watch) CRT is not currently in NC Curriculum Standards. People who are upset about CRT claim that teaching American History will cause their children to hate America, themselves and each other. No teacher is teaching that. Once a student learns the facts about history s/he could very well decide to make our country a better place to live.

The best way to ”ensure dignity and nondiscrimination” of all is to examine our history, learn from it and make the future better, not by banning the teaching of the effects of our history on discriminatory practices today.  HB324 is designed to ensure dignity and nondiscrimination of white students. It is racist. Does the NCGA care that minority students have had their dignity taken away and have been discriminated against for hundreds of years?

Critical Race Theory explained in 5 minutes

HB324 bans the teaching of these 7 concepts:

  • One race or sex is inherently superior
  • An individual, because of their race or sex, inherently has conscious or unconscious biases that are racist, sexist or oppressive
  • An individual should be discriminated against or receive unfair treatment
  • An individual’s morality is determined by their race or sex
  • An individual, solely because of their race or sex, must be responsible for actions committed by prior generations of that same race or sex
  • Any individual, solely because of their race or sex, should feel “discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress”
  • The belief that the U.S. is a meritocracy is an inherently racist or sexist belief, or that the U.S. was created by members of a particular race or sex for the purpose of oppressing members of another race or sex.

WHY IS CRITICAL RACE THEORY RELEVANT TODAY?          

In a perfect world, educational equity would ensure that all students have access to high-quality curriculum, instruction and funding. But we don’t live in a perfect world, so racial inequality manifests in a number of ways in American education. For example:

CRT PROVIDES A RELEVANT, RESEARCH-BASED FRAMEWORK THROUGH WHICH EDUCATION LEADERS AND POLICYMAKERS CAN THINK ABOUT THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCT OF RACE AND THE IMPACT OF RACISM ON STUDENTS OF COLOR.          Education Post

WHY ARE SOME STATES OUTLAWING CRITICAL RACE THEORY IN SCHOOLS?        

Even though CRT itself is not a topic in most K-12 curricula, some legislators and elected officials have referenced it in connection with any lesson or training that acknowledges racially oppressive practices as districts around the country have started to embrace the idea that Black, Latinx and Indigenous students will do better in school if the systems around them change.

This has led to some challenging new practices in our schools and classrooms, such as:

For school systems that have operated the same way for decades, these are big changes. There are some who would like to see less change, and believe that the steps above are forcing a new worldview on their kids—even calling it “indoctrination.” In Idaho, Florida, Arkansas and Tennessee, for instance, state governments are acting out of direct concern that critical race theory is at the root of these changes.

And about that, they might be right. They needn’t worry that grade-schoolers will start reading legal texts and academic monographs, but the critical race theory movement certainly has played a huge role in the broader reexamination of our society through the lens of race and racial oppression. And schools are a big part of that.                Education Post

PW special report: The right’s coordinated assault on Critical Race Theory in North Carolina

This report details the attack by conservatives, including Republican State Superintendent Cathy Truitt, who “ told a group of Republicans in Orange County this month that she will do everything in her power to “eradicate” CRT from the state’s public schools.”

Request for Proclamation Against HB 324 | by Min. Paul Scott | May, 2021 | Medium

Durham School Board to Support Critical Race Theory 6/24 | by Min. Paul Scott | Jun, 2021 | Medium

HB 324 Ensuring Dignity & Nondiscrimination/Schools

Durham school board opposes bill they say would limit teaching about race, sex biases

State GOP leaders decry Durham City Council’s support of critical race theory

NC State Board of Education approves new guidance for how students will learn about history, race :: WRAL.com  A bill in the North Carolina legislature, related to school COVID-19 provisions, seeks to delay implementation of the standards by a year. It passed the House but not the Senate and is being re-worked in committee.


TEACHING AMERICAN HISTORY

NC Social Studies Standards 2021              Standards Development Process

Social Studies Curriculum 2021

The preamble, written by NC Superintendent of Public Instruction, Catherine Truitt, states that “the standards are a framework intended to teach the full spectrum of history to best help students learn and use the information they acquire in the course of learning experiences. However, it is important to remember that history itself doesn’t provide the sole explanation for why we have injustices, racism, and discrimination today, be they institutionalized or localized. Our human failings have at times taken the form of racism, xenophobia, nativism, extremism, and isolationism. We need to study history in order to understand how these situations developed, the harmful impact they caused, and the forces and actors that sometimes helped us move beyond these outcomes.”

3rd Grade SS Standards relating to race and history

3.B.1 Understand how values and beliefs of individuals and groups influence communities.

3.B.1.1 Explain how the values, beliefs, and cultures of various indigenous, religious, racial and other groups contribute to the development of local communities and the state.

3.B.1.2 Compare values, beliefs, cultural practices and traditions of various groups living in local and regional communities.

3.H.1 Understand how various people and historical events have shaped local communities.

3.H.1.1 Explain how the experiences and achievements of women, indigenous, religious, and racial groups have contributed to the development of the local community.

3.H.1.2 Explain the lasting impact historical events have had on local communities.

3.H.1.3 Use primary and secondary sources to compare multiple interpretations of various historical symbols and events in local communities.

High School American History 1 Standards  relating to race and history

AH.B.1 Evaluate American identity in terms of perspective, change, and continuity.

AH.B.1.1 Critique multiple perspectives of American identity in terms of American exceptionalism. AH.B.1.2 Critique multiple perspectives of American identity in terms of opportunity, prosperity, and crisis.

AH.B.1.3 Critique multiple perspectives of American identity in terms of oppression, stereotypes, diversity, inclusion, and exclusion.

AH.B.1.4 Critique multiple perspectives of American identity in terms of individualism and conformity. AH.B.1.5 Explain how various immigrant experiences have influenced American identity.

AH.B.1.6 Explain how the experiences and achievements of minorities and marginalized peoples have contributed to American identity over time in terms of the struggle against bias, racism, oppression, and discrimination.

AH.B.1.7 Explain how slavery, xenophobia, disenfranchisement, and intolerance have affected individual and group perspectives of themselves as Americans.

AH.C&G.1 Evaluate the relationship between the American people and the government in terms of freedom, equality, and power.

AH.C&G.1.1 Explain how various views on freedom and equality contributed to the development of American political thought and system of government.

AH.C&G.1.2 Critique the extent to which various levels of government used power to expand or restrict the freedom and equality of American people.

AH.C&G.1.3 Explain how various individuals and groups strategized, organized, advocated and protested to expand or restrict freedom and equality.

AH.C&G.1.4 Explain how racism, oppression, and discrimination of indigenous peoples, racial minorities, and other marginalized groups have impacted equality and power in America

Critical Race Theory (CRT) is <a college level> academic discipline that examines how American racism has shaped law and public policy. CRT emerged in the legal academy in the 1980 as an offshoot of critical legal studies. (NC Policy Watch) CRT is not currently in NC Curriculum Standards. People who are upset about CRT claim that teaching American History will cause their children to hate America, themselves and each other. No teacher is teaching that. Once a student learns the facts about history s/he could very well decide to make our country a better place to live.

The best way to ”ensure dignity and nondiscrimination” of all is to examine our history, learn from it and make the future better, not by banning the teaching of the effects of our history on discriminatory practices today.  HB324 is designed to ensure dignity and nondiscrimination of white students. It is racist. Does the NCGA care that minority students have had their dignity taken away and have been discriminated against for hundreds of years?

Critical Race Theory explained in 5 minutes

HB324 bans the teaching of these 7 concepts:

  • One race or sex is inherently superior
  • An individual, because of their race or sex, inherently has conscious or unconscious biases that are racist, sexist or oppressive
  • An individual should be discriminated against or receive unfair treatment
  • An individual’s morality is determined by their race or sex
  • An individual, solely because of their race or sex, must be responsible for actions committed by prior generations of that same race or sex
  • Any individual, solely because of their race or sex, should feel “discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress”
  • The belief that the U.S. is a meritocracy is an inherently racist or sexist belief, or that the U.S. was created by members of a particular race or sex for the purpose of oppressing members of another race or sex[1] [2] 

WHY IS CRITICAL RACE THEORY RELEVANT TODAY?          

In a perfect world, educational equity would ensure that all students have access to high-quality curriculum, instruction and funding. But we don’t live in a perfect world, so racial inequality manifests in a number of ways in American education. For example:

CRT PROVIDES A RELEVANT, RESEARCH-BASED FRAMEWORK THROUGH WHICH EDUCATION LEADERS AND POLICYMAKERS CAN THINK ABOUT THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCT OF RACE AND THE IMPACT OF RACISM ON STUDENTS OF COLOR.          Education Post

WHY ARE SOME STATES OUTLAWING CRITICAL RACE THEORY IN SCHOOLS?        

Even though CRT itself is not a topic in most K-12 curricula, some legislators and elected officials have referenced it in connection with any lesson or training that acknowledges racially oppressive practices as districts around the country have started to embrace the idea that Black, Latinx and Indigenous students will do better in school if the systems around them change.

This has led to some challenging new practices in our schools and classrooms, such as:

For school systems that have operated the same way for decades, these are big changes. There are some who would like to see less change, and believe that the steps above are forcing a new worldview on their kids—even calling it “indoctrination.” In Idaho, Florida, Arkansas and Tennessee, for instance, state governments are acting out of direct concern that critical race theory is at the root of these changes.

And about that, they might be right. They needn’t worry that grade-schoolers will start reading legal texts and academic monographs, but the critical race theory movement certainly has played a huge role in the broader reexamination of our society through the lens of race and racial oppression. And schools are a big part of that.                Education Post

PW special report: The right’s coordinated assault on Critical Race Theory in North Carolina

This report details the attack by conservatives, including Republican State Superintendent Cathy Truitt, who “ told a group of Republicans in Orange County this month that she will do everything in her power to “eradicate” CRT from the state’s public schools.”

Request for Proclamation Against HB 324 | by Min. Paul Scott | May, 2021 | Medium

Durham School Board to Support Critical Race Theory 6/24 | by Min. Paul Scott | Jun, 2021 | Medium

HB 324 Ensuring Dignity & Nondiscrimination/Schools

Durham school board opposes bill they say would limit teaching about race, sex biases

State GOP leaders decry Durham City Council’s support of critical race theory

NC State Board of Education approves new guidance for how students will learn about history, race :: WRAL.com  A bill in the North Carolina legislature, related to school COVID-19 provisions, seeks to delay implementation of the standards by a year. It passed the House but not the Senate and is being re-worked in committee.


2021 Farm Act Eases Methane Biogas Permitting

The North Carolina Senate and House recently passed the Farm Act of 2021 (SB605) which contained a provision granting blanket permission for the state’s hog farmers to begin harvesting and selling methane gas (biogas) from hog waste lagoons. The individual process for doing this had already started, but the permitting process was slow.

All of this may sound familiar. Last year, judges with 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, affirmed a lower court ruling that holds Murphy-Brown, LLC, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, Inc., liable for violating the right of neighbors of the former hog farm to enjoy their property. Jurors in that 2018 District Court case awarded each of the property owners $75,000 in compensatory damages and another $2.5 million collectively in punitive damages. Then Smithfield Foods announced it had resolved the remaining 20 to 25 separate lawsuits – there were 500 complaints in all, filed by North Carolinians, mostly people of color. Smithfield Foods is owned by Hong Kong-based WH Group Limited.

These cases brought to the forefront environmental justice matters in eastern North Carolina’s rural communities that have for years been fighting for the industrial hog farming industry to get away from the lagoon and sprayfield system. “We certainly hope that the pretty clear decision of the judges sends a message to the industry that they need to change their practices,” said Sherri-White-Williamson, the North Carolina Conservation Network’s environmental justice policy director. “Environmental justice is very much about not just black and brown communities, but low-income communities that have something in common- politically they are not powerful.”

After this stunning victory for the plaintiffs did Smithfield undertake efforts to process hog waste in ways that would protect the environment and neighboring communities? No! Instead, Smithfield Foods and Dominion Energy have deployed a full-court press on lawmakers and state regulators to build expansive new biogas systems, which would be located mostly in communities of color and low-income residents.

These biogas systems use covered waste lagoons to capture some of the farm’s methane. That gas is then used by utilities to burn for electricity. Significantly, the method for doing this still requires two sets of lagoons – one with a cover to collect the gas and one uncovered to collect the waste and spray on fields. So the lagoon and spraying remain in place.

We should urge Governor Cooper to veto the Farm Bill on the grounds that it does nothing to protect the environment and the community. It’s just another way to make money while selling the idea to the public that the company has found a new way to address problems with hog waste. Easing the permit system for Smithfield and Dominion should be rejected. Call Governor Cooper, @ 919-814-2000.

Source: NC Policy Watch special report: The great methane debate and what it could mean for North Carolina

House Passes 2021 Farm Bill

REALITY CHECK: INCREASE THE MINIMUM WAGE

We all want businesses to open back up and for the economy to recover. Many businesses require essential workers to come back to work, yet complain about the labor shortage. The federal minimum wage has not been increased since 2007, or in 14 years. Yet the living expenses keep growing. Try calculating how far you could get in a month on $7.25/hr. X 40 hours ($290, minus taxes).

The Raise the Wage Act would immediately boost consumer spending at all levels and put more money into the local economy. Higher wages would reduce employee turnover and hiring and training expenses, as well as increasing local tax revenues. Because corporations and other employers pay low wages, taxpayers end up subsidizing $153 billion annually for safety net programs. Fewer people would need to access these programs.

Increasing the minimum wage to $15./hr. would raise income for 17 million people, benefit 560,000 child care workers, and lift 900,000 out of poverty. Economic Policy Institute (epi.org) says that it “would lift pay for 32 million workers, or 21% of the U.S. workforce. A majority (59%) of workers whose total family income is below the poverty line would receive a pay increase. Nearly one-third (31%) of African Americans and one-quarter (26%) of Latinos would get a raise if the federal minimum wage were increased to $15.”

The Economic Policy Institute (epi.org) estimates that family income would increase by $5,100, giving them “extra resources that could help them to stop living from paycheck to paycheck, helping Black families the most.” $15./hr will reduce the gender and racial wage gap, especially for women and people of color, and help re-establish and strengthen the middle class.

The Raise the Wage Act would also phase out the abysmal wage for tipped workers, which has been frozen at $2.13 since 1991 and end disgraceful subminimum wages ($3.34) for workers with disabilities employed in sheltered workshops and for workers under age 20. Increasing the minimum wage has also demonstrated improved infant health and reduced child abuse and teenage pregnancy.

Fight for $15 was launched by striking fast-food workers in 2012. Nine states (40% of the U.S. workforce) have raised their minimum wages to $15 an hour. Across the country, a single, childless adult needs at least $31,200 to have an adequate standard of living, more than twice what a full-time worker making $7.25 an hour earns annually, $15,080.

Please CALL your senators about the Raise the Wage Act, and VOTE to elect politicians who will pass this.

Sen. Richard Burr 202-224-3154

Sen. Thom Tillis 202-224-6342

The Raise the Wage Act, Explained | Indivisible

Zyaja Mattocks Speaks on Juneteenth and Growing Up Black

Zyaja Mattocks is a graduate of UNC Fayetteville in Psychology. She plans to continue onto medical school. Born and raised in Pamlico County her roots here are deep. She is a member of YNTO, Youth Navigating Towards Opportunity, a group that mentors Pamlico youth. As a part of YNTO, at their first annual Juneteenth Celebration last year, Zyaja gave a speech about the origins of Juneteenth. She is a dynamic speaker and has much to share. She will be speaking about Juneteenth and about her story as a young black woman understanding the past and its impact on the present. 

Listen to her speech here, delivered by Lakeesha Jones.

White Americans can handle truth about the nation’s history

By Rob Schofield – 6/1/2021 – in Top StoryWeekly BriefingPrint This Article

When Europeans first came to the Americas in the middle of the last millennium, scholars estimate that there were roughly 60 million indigenous people here. And while the actions and motivations of those who immigrated to this hemisphere obviously ran the gamut, there is simply no denying that the impact on the native population was catastrophic.

The arrival of Europeans led – both through the rapid spread of diseases like smallpox, measles and influenza, and by way of warfare, conquest and famine – to the extermination of as much as 90% of the Native American population (or around 10% of all humans then on Earth). The “Great Dying” was so massive that some scientists believe that the subsequent rapid decline in agricultural land use to which it led contributed to a temporary alteration in planetary temperatures.

This tragic story is far from the only one of its kind. Throughout human history, groups representing various races, religions, nations, and ideologies have subjugated and inflicted great harm on members of other groups – sometimes with a specific intention to do so and, at others, with only a vague grasp of the impacts of their actions.

Aboriginal people in Australia, native inhabitants of southern Africa, colonized inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent, European Jews, the Irish, Armenians, the Tutsis of Rwanda, and the Muslim Uighur population of modern China are just a few of the groups on a very long list.

Of course, the hard truths in these episodes of oppression, and even genocide, are not usually in the history that gets reported by the oppressors or their descendants. The process of acknowledging and coming to terms with such painful truths is usually a fraught, gradual, and imperfect one.

Eighty years afterwards, modern Europe still struggles to come to terms with the horrors and implications of the Holocaust. In 2021, the government of China denies what it is currently and credibly accused of doing to millions of Uighurs.

Here in the U.S., it has taken many decades – indeed, centuries – for the tragic scope of what was done to Native Americans to slowly penetrate the consciousness of a population raised on cowboy movies and fanciful Thanksgiving stories.

And so it is, perhaps not surprisingly, that many modern Americans continue to struggle with one of the most horrific of all episodes of oppression in human history: the forced enslavement of millions of people of African descent by white Americans.

While no one denies the fact of slavery, millions still avert their eyes from its gruesome reality and, even more importantly, from its legacy.

This fact has been on painful display in recent weeks as many American conservatives have pursued an aggressive and concerted strategy to ban the teaching of “critical race theory.” As reporter Dan Vock explained in a Policy Watch story last week, the proponents of this argument believe that this heretofore rather obscure academic concept is part of a nefarious strategy to brainwash white American students into hating their country and seeing it (and themselves) as racist. Recent conservative attacks on journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones and the 1619 Project are clearly a component of this campaign.

At least that’s the optimistic view of what’s been happening. A more cynical take – one that seems likely given the argument’s close association with that great manipulator of white fear and prejudice, Donald Trump – is that this new campaign has little to do with genuine belief and everything to do with an effort by a movement bereft of winning policy ideas to play its last political hole card: race-based fear.

Happily, whatever the motivations of the authors of this new and manufactured controversy – cynically manipulative, or merely sincere and confused – it is, like so many other attempts to deny history, doomed to failure for a simple and powerful reason: it’s not true.

Undertaking an honest and critical appraisal of American history – particularly the systematic racism that has long permeated nearly every aspect of society – doesn’t make the nation or its people weaker; it makes them stronger. Just as humans can love their parents and still recognize their blind spots and mistakes, modern Americans can celebrate the great insights of the nation’s founders and still acknowledge the dreadful injustices they abetted and perpetrated.

Just like modern Germans who work every day to confront and overcome the sins of the Nazis, American schoolkids can handle the truth.

And they can also handle the undeniable fact that the legacy of the nation’s original sins, didn’t end with the Civil War, or the demise of Jim Crow, or even with the Obama presidency.

In 2021, it is indisputably true that life in the United States, for all its many greatest-in-history attributes, remains inextricably intertwined with the original extermination of indigenous people, the enslavement of Africans and the systematic oppression of people of color that followed.

This fact doesn’t make every white American “guilty,” or a “racist,” but it should inspire all people of all colors to discard their rose-colored glasses, look honestly in the mirror, and think anew about why and how they should be working, quite intentionally, to build a better and fairer world for all.

Print This Article

TAGS AFRICAN AMERICANSCRITICAL RACE THEORYRACERACISMWHITE SUPREMACY

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rob SchofieldRob SchofieldDirector of NC Policy Watch, has three decades of experience as a lawyer, lobbyist, writer and commentator. At Policy Watch, Rob writes and edits daily online commentaries and handles numerous public speaking and electronic media appearances. He also delivers a radio commentary that’s broadcast weekdays on WRAL-FM and WCHL and hosts News and Views, a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina.
rob@ncpolicywatch.com
919-861-2065

REALITY CHECK: REDUCING GUN VIOLENCE

America is Number 1. America has more guns than any other country, more than 300 million guns. That’s 120 for every 100 citizens, compared to Canada, the next closest, with 35 guns per 100 people. “We don’t ban cars, but we work hard to regulate them — and limit access to them — so as to reduce the death toll they cause. This has been spectacularly successful, reducing the death rate per 100 million miles driven by 95 percent since 1921. Use a public health approach instead, using auto safety as a model—constant efforts to make the products safer and to limit access by people who are most likely to misuse them.”

What would a public health approach look like for guns if it were modeled after cars? It would include:

Enforce background checks; 22 percent of guns are obtained without one.

Keep men who are subject to domestic violence protection orders from having guns.

Ban people under 21 purchasing firearms (this is already the case in many states).Require safe storage practices: trigger locks as well as guns and ammunition stored separately, especially when children are in the house.

Enforce laws on straw purchases of weapons, and some limits on how many guns can be purchased in a month.

Experimentation with a one-time background check for anybody buying ammunition.

End immunity for firearm companies. That’s a subsidy to a particular industry.

Ban bump stocks, the kind used in Las Vegas to mimic automatic weapon fire.

Research ‘smart guns’, like those that fire only after a fingerprint or PIN is entered, or if used near a particular bracelet. This would also cut down on the 200,000 annual gun thefts.

Research gun buybacks

Support anti-gang initiatives, such as Cure Violence, that have a good record in reducing shootings. Source: Nicholas Kristof, NYT

One study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that a gun in the house was associated with an increased risk of a gun death, particularly by suicide but also by homicide. Fewer guns result in fewer deaths. If we can reduce gun deaths by 1/3, we could save almost 15,000 lives. We can do this. Let’s focus on how to make ourselves and our families safer and keep guns out of the wrong hands.

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REALITY CHECK: MEDICAID EXPANSION

We Should All Support Governor Cooper’s Plan to Expand Medicaid in North Carolina


THE PROBLEM

When Medicaid was first enacted in 1965 under President Johnson, it provided health insurance to lower income people, their children, and people with certain disabilities. It is a means-tested program which places a ceiling on income eligibility tied to the federal poverty line. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was enacted in 2010 under President Obama; it substantially expanded the Medicaid eligibility ceiling and coverage. It covers all citizens up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level including adults without children.

The ACA faced bitter opposition, especially from Republican elected officials. In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the states were not required to follow this mandated expansion and could retain previous Medicaid coverage. Thus it was up to each state to decide whether to expand Medicaid coverage to the ACA mandated levels. As of this date, all but 12 states have done so. North Carolina has not. The Republican leadership in the North Carolina General Assembly has opposed this Medicaid expansion since 2013. So, the problem is, what to do about it.


THE SOLUTION FOR NORTH CAROLINA

In his latest budget proposal, Governor Roy Cooper has included his long-time priority, Medicaid expansion for 500,000 North Carolinians without health insurance. The stand-off over Medicaid expansion between Cooper and the Republican-led legislature led to Cooper vetoing the state budget in 2019. “Getting more health care coverage to people in North Carolina is certainly a priority,” he said. “Medicaid expansion is the best way to do that.” In the past year countless numbers of North Carolina workers have lost their jobs and their health care coverage. This makes the issue of expansion more urgent in that the probable number of people who would benefit has climbed.
And just in time, another landmark piece of legislation, the American Rescue Plan (ARP), just recently signed into law by President Biden, provides substantial incentives for holdout states to finally expand Medicaid which, for North Carolina would include these, among other, benefits:

After the enactment of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act the government is now paying close to 74 percent of each Medicaid dollar spent in North Carolina. ARP would increase that even more by adding 5 percent. It is estimated that the boost to the bottom line would be about $1.7 billion while the cost to the state would be a 1/2 billion – a net gain of as much as $1.2 billion for the state.
Moreover, ARP would also provide extra coverage for new mothers for one year to fight pregnancy-related illness and deaths. Currently Medicaid only covers the first 60 days after birth.

We urge readers to contact the NC Senate President Phil Berger and the NC House Speaker Tim Moore and encourage them to work with Governor Cooper to expand Medicaid coverage.

REALITY‌ ‌CHECK‌: ‌ ‌Voter‌ ‌Suppression‌

By Diane Lemieux

How‌ ‌do‌ ‌the‌ ‌For‌ ‌the‌ ‌People‌ ‌Act‌ ‌(H.R.1/S.1)‌ ‌and‌ ‌the‌ ‌John‌ ‌Lewis‌ ‌Voting‌ ‌Rights‌ ‌Act‌ ‌(H.R.4)‌ ‌restore‌ ‌Voting‌ ‌Rights?‌ ‌

H.R.1‌ ‌has‌ ‌already‌ ‌been‌ ‌passed‌ ‌by‌ ‌the‌ ‌House,‌ ‌and‌ ‌ ‌

●Guarantees‌ ‌Universal‌ ‌Vote‑By‑Mail‌ ‌

●Guarantees‌ ‌Automatic‌ ‌Voter‌ ‌Registration‌ ‌

●Makes‌ ‌absentee‌ ‌voting‌ ‌easier‌ ‌

●Restores‌ ‌the‌ ‌Voting‌ ‌Rights‌ ‌Act‌ ‌

●Limits‌ ‌the‌ ‌influence‌ ‌of‌ ‌dark‌ ‌money‌ ‌in‌ ‌politics‌ ‌

●Stops‌ ‌partisan‌ ‌gerrymandering‌ ‌by‌ ‌requiring‌ ‌independent,‌ ‌balanced‌ ‌citizen‌ ‌redistricting‌ ‌commissions.‌ ‌

Maps‌ ‌would‌ ‌have‌ ‌to‌ ‌be‌ ‌approved‌ ‌by‌ ‌a‌ ‌portion‌ ‌of‌ ‌each‌ ‌party.‌ ‌The‌ ‌rules‌ ‌for‌ ‌drawing‌ ‌maps‌ ‌would‌ ‌be‌ ‌the‌ ‌same‌ ‌across‌ ‌the‌ ‌country‌ ‌and‌ ‌would‌ ‌avoid‌ ‌the‌ ‌unnecessary‌ ‌division‌ ‌of‌ ‌communities,‌ ‌etc..‌ ‌Communities‌ ‌of‌ ‌color‌ ‌also‌ ‌would‌ ‌be‌ ‌protected‌ ‌to‌ ‌ensure‌ ‌that‌ ‌their‌ ‌political‌ ‌power‌ ‌is‌ ‌not‌ ‌undermined‌ ‌by‌ ‌map‌ ‌makers.‌ ‌Map‌ ‌drawers‌ ‌also‌ ‌would‌ ‌be‌ ‌required‌ ‌to‌ ‌issue‌ ‌written‌ ‌reports‌ ‌evaluating‌ ‌proposed‌ ‌maps’‌ ‌compliance‌ ‌with‌ ‌these‌ ‌rules‌ ‌before‌ ‌any‌ ‌voting‌ ‌on‌ ‌maps‌ ‌could‌ ‌begin.‌ ‌Maps‌ ‌and‌ ‌data‌ ‌would‌ ‌be‌ ‌posted‌ ‌for‌ ‌30‌ ‌days‌ ‌of‌ ‌public‌ ‌comment‌ ‌and‌ ‌map‌ ‌challenges‌ ‌will‌ ‌be‌ ‌expedited.‌ ‌ ‌

The‌ ‌Senate‌ ‌version,‌ ‌S.1,‌ ‌mirrors‌ ‌H.R.1‌ ‌and‌ ‌complies‌ ‌with‌ ‌the‌ ‌Constitution’s‌ ‌requirement‌ ‌that‌ ‌it‌ ‌use‌ ‌its‌ ‌right,‌ ‌power‌ ‌and‌ ‌authority‌ ‌to‌ ‌set‌ ‌a‌ ‌national‌ ‌standard‌ ‌for‌ ‌the‌ ‌“times,‌ ‌places,‌ ‌and‌ ‌manner”‌ ‌of‌ ‌federal‌ ‌elections.‌ ‌It‌ ‌would‌ ‌ensure‌ ‌access‌ ‌to‌ ‌vote‌ ‌by‌ ‌mail‌ ‌and‌ ‌early‌ ‌voting‌ ‌and‌ ‌restore‌ ‌voting‌ ‌rights‌ ‌to‌ ‌those‌ ‌returning‌ ‌from‌ ‌incarceration.

The‌ ‌good‌ ‌news‌ ‌is‌ ‌that‌ ‌there‌ ‌are‌ ‌also‌ ‌843‌ ‌measures‌ ‌being‌ ‌proposed‌ ‌in‌ ‌47‌ ‌states‌ ‌to‌ ‌expand‌ ‌voting‌ ‌rights.‌ ‌ ‌S.1‌ ‌could‌ ‌bring‌ ‌to‌ ‌a‌ ‌grinding‌ ‌halt‌ ‌the‌ ‌current‌ ‌voter‌ ‌suppression‌ ‌laws‌ ‌being‌ ‌proposed/passed.‌ ‌As‌ ‌of‌ ‌April‌ ‌1,‌ ‌361‌ ‌bills‌ ‌in‌ ‌47‌ ‌states‌ ‌call‌ ‌for‌ ‌voting‌ ‌restrictions.‌ ‌The‌ ‌bill‌ ‌passed‌ ‌in‌ ‌Georgia‌ ‌has‌ ‌received‌ ‌considerable‌ ‌pushback‌ ‌and‌ ‌is‌ ‌being‌ ‌called‌ ‌discriminatory‌ ‌by‌ ‌critics‌ ‌for‌ ‌its‌ ‌efforts‌ ‌to‌ ‌discount‌ ‌black‌ ‌and‌ ‌brown,‌ ‌young‌ ‌and‌ ‌poor‌ ‌voters.‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

The‌ ‌John‌ ‌Lewis‌ ‌Voting‌ ‌Rights‌ ‌Advancement‌ ‌Act‌ ‌(H.R.4)‌ ‌returns‌ ‌the‌ ‌1965‌ ‌Voting‌ ‌Rights‌ ‌Act‌ ‌to‌ ‌its‌ ‌full‌ ‌strength‌ ‌and‌ ‌even‌ ‌improves‌ ‌upon‌ ‌the‌ ‌1965‌ ‌law.‌ ‌The‌ ‌Voting‌ ‌Rights‌ ‌Act‌ ‌of‌ ‌1965‌ ‌(VRA)‌ ‌was‌ ‌enacted‌ ‌to‌ ‌insure‌ ‌that‌ ‌the‌ ‌15th‌ ‌Amendment‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌Constitution‌ ‌was‌ ‌enforced‌ ‌and‌ ‌that‌ ‌no‌ ‌official,‌ ‌whether‌ ‌in‌ ‌federal,‌ ‌state‌ ‌or‌ ‌local‌ ‌government‌ ‌may‌ ‌in‌ ‌any‌ ‌way‌ ‌impede‌ ‌people‌ ‌from‌ ‌registering‌ ‌to‌ ‌vote‌ ‌or‌ ‌voting‌ ‌because‌ ‌of‌ ‌their‌ ‌race‌ ‌or‌ ‌ethnicity.‌ ‌ ‌ ‌This‌ ‌act‌ ‌restores‌ ‌the‌ ‌requirement‌ ‌that‌ ‌certain‌ ‌states‌ ‌and‌ ‌localities‌ ‌with‌ ‌a‌ ‌history‌ ‌of‌ ‌voting‌ ‌discrimination‌ ‌obtain‌ ‌prior‌ ‌federal‌ ‌approval‌ ‌—‌ ‌or‌ ‌“preclearance”‌ ‌—‌ ‌for‌ ‌both‌ ‌current‌ ‌and‌ ‌proposed‌ ‌changes‌ ‌to‌ ‌their‌ ‌voting‌ ‌rules‌ ‌and‌ ‌practices‌ ‌to‌ ‌make‌ ‌sure‌ ‌that‌ ‌they‌ ‌are‌ ‌not‌ ‌discriminatory.‌ ‌ ‌

Call‌ ‌your‌ ‌senators‌ ‌today‌ ‌and‌ ‌tell‌ ‌them‌ ‌you‌ ‌support‌ ‌‌For‌ ‌the‌ ‌People‌ ‌Act‌ ‌(H.R.1/S.1)‌ ‌and‌ ‌the‌ ‌John‌ ‌Lewis‌ ‌Voting‌ ‌Rights‌ ‌Act‌ ‌(H.R.4).‌ ‌ ‌

Sen.‌ ‌Richard‌ ‌Burr‌202-224-3154‌ ‌

Sen.‌ ‌Thom‌ ‌Tillis‌202-224-6342‌ ‌

In North Carolina, we need to protect everyone’s freedom to vote

04.26.2021 / BY BOB PHILLIPS

RALEIGH – Voting is the right by which all our other rights are protected, to paraphrase Thomas Paine. Equal access to the ballot box is the bedrock foundation of our democracy and vital to the health of our nation.

It’s a simple, powerful concept – every American’s voice should be heard and their vote counted. Yet it’s been a struggle to achieve that vision, even now.

We know the shameful history of voter suppression that still reverberates today. We remember Black and Brown heroes who have courageously stood up against racist policies that withheld voting rights from people of color. We remember brave women who broke down barriers to the ballot. We recall the young people who advocated to lower the voting age, recognizing the injustice it was for 18-year-olds to fight for our country, but be deprived a say in our elections.

As more Americans have participated at the polls, our democracy has grown stronger. And the evidence is clear: when voting is made more accessible, more people participate. That benefits everyone. We saw that in 2020 when North Carolina had record high voter turnout, reaching 75%.

Our state’s historic climb in turnout is due in large part to important policies enacted in the early 2000s, like no-excuse absentee voting, expanded early voting and same-day voter registration. These pro-voter innovations survived attacks by partisan politicians in recent years thanks to North Carolinians standing together to defend broad access to the polls. As shown last fall, making voting more convenient has helped all voters – Democrats, Republicans and independents alike.

Now, we’re at a crossroads. There are some politicians who want to take us backward, who want to impose unnecessary and discriminatory barriers that would undercut our freedom to vote, especially for Black and Brown voters and young people. We see that with the more than 250 anti-voter bills that have cropped up like weeds around the nation, including here in North Carolina.

At the same time, we have an opportunity to enact pro-democracy solutions that protect voting rights, encourage participation in elections and put people above politics.

That’s the choice: do we want to suppress voting, or do we want to promote voting?

The answer should be easy – we want to protect everyone’s freedom to vote. Any politician who feels differently, who wants to stop people from voting, should take a long look at themselves and ask why they dread being held accountable by the people they are supposed to serve.

Here’s some good news. The For the People Act has passed the U.S. House and awaits consideration by the U.S. Senate. This common-sense proposal would protect crucial election reforms like early voting, and it would implement proven, pro-voter policies such as automatic voter registration. We need Senators Tillis and Burr to step up for all North Carolinians and support the For the People Act.

In our state legislature, there have also been several pro-democracy bills introduced that deserve the support of lawmakers. The Fair Maps Act (House Bill 437) would end gerrymandering for good by establishing a citizens redistricting commission, making sure voters have a voice in choosing their representatives.

House Bill 446 (Safeguarding Voting Rights) would help voter registration, bolster early voting, improve accessibility for voting by mail and make Election Day a state holiday. House Bill 542 and Senate Bill 716 (Fix Our Democracy) would increase voting access, limit the influence of big money in politics and boost transparency in government. The legislature should pass these bills.

A year ago, North Carolina Republican and Democratic lawmakers worked together to enact legislation that made voting by mail more accessible amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than imposing new barriers to casting a ballot, legislative leadership should build on the success of last year’s election and support pro-voting proposals.

We must not turn back the clock on voting rights. Instead, let’s move forward, ensuring that every voter is able to fully participate in our elections. And when more people participate, our democracy wins.


Bob Phillips is executive director of Common Cause NC, a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy.