Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:
The Winston-Salem Journal on the city passing non-discrimination resolutions and ordinances:
Kudos to the city of Winston-Salem for passing a raft of non-discrimination resolutions and ordinance amendments on Monday. The changes will make for a more accepting and equitable community and that can only help us in the long run — especially as we recover from the current pandemic and economic downturn.
We now join several other North Carolina cities like Greensboro, Chapel Hill, Durham and Hillsborough that have already enacted various non-discrimination ordinances.
The changes mean that transgender people, as well as gays and lesbians, will have protections from discrimination by city departments and officials. Sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression will be explicitly added to the city’s fair housing ordinance.
The amendments also grant protections based on “protected hairstyles” that are associated with race, including “braids, locks, twists, tight coils or curls, cornrows, Bantu knots and afros.”
Contracts with businesses hired by the city will include non-discrimination provisions and the city will “encourage corporate and individual community partners to oppose discrimination in all forms.”
Over the next 100 days, the city will study the extent to which it can enforce the same non-discrimination policies on the private sector. That will, no doubt, raise some hackles, but in the long run, it’s for the best.
“We must challenge those laws,” council member Kevin Mundy said. “So many laws, especially when it comes to civil rights, municipalities and states challenge the federal government. At some point soon, we will be on the right side of history when we make sure that I and my fellow members of the LGBTQ community have the same rights as everyone else.”
Some have claimed that there’s no actual threat to LGBTQ people. They and their experiences say otherwise.
“Most people don’t realize that individuals can be denied health care, lose jobs or face other forms of discrimination for things like wearing a natural hairstyle or being pregnant,” Chris Smith, a member of a coalition that worked for the passage of the ordinances, told the Journal earlier this month. “So, we believe it’s important to make this ordinance broad enough to cover folks who fall through the cracks when it comes to protections — as other cities and counties in North Carolina have done.”
Last June, the Trump administration tried to eliminate federal health care and health insurance protections for LGBTQ people, which would have allowed medical providers to refuse to treat them. Federal courts blocked the attempt.
In North Carolina, the state legislature attempted to write discrimination against LGBTQ people into law, with HB 2, the notorious 2016 “bathroom bill,” which would have sent transgender people into uncomfortable and threatening situations.
Fortunately, after a business and cultural boycott of North Carolina brought a little sobriety to the state legislature, HB 2 was revised.
We’ve commented before on the detrimental effect such policies have on the economy. Inclusion creates a better business atmosphere than exclusion. But there’s a moral component that’s equally important.
We’re aware that some people have sincere religious objections to protections for “sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.” We respect their right to hold their religious beliefs. We also know that they’re likely to frame the issue quite differently — it’ll be about them and their rights rather than the rights of transgender people.
Some Americans similarly had sincere religious objections to racial integration at one point, but as a society, we saw that the common good outweighed their objections.
Religious freedom is a bedrock American principle — but it shouldn’t be the card that’s played to interfere with someone else’s religious or civic freedom.
When it comes to public accommodations — or simple commerce — contributing members of society should have the same rights regardless of sexual or gender orientation. There’s a much greater threat to a free and fair society from discriminating against them than from treating them with respect and dignity.
The Greensboro News & Record on the deaths of six Asian American women in the Atlanta-area massage parlor shootings:
The killings of eight people, six of them Asian American women, in an ugly shooting spree last week in Georgia, couldn’t happen here, could they?
Many probably thought it couldn’t happen there, either. Until it did.
So far, police in North Carolina report no significant uptick in harassment of Asian Americans, whom some people irrationally blame for the coronavirus.
But not every slight or sneer or hateful word is reported. As deeply as they may cut, not every small indignity is a crime.
Yet too often, without warning, the hate boils over.
Perhaps we should have seen this coming.
Consider a guest column that was published 10 months ago in the News & Record. Wrote Uma Avva, Tiffany Lam-Balfour and Athan Lindsay in that May 10, 2020, op-ed:
“Whether it’s receiving side-eye when seen wearing a mask or glares when a tickle in your throat causes an inadvertent cough; being sprayed at with Lysol when returning to work after caring for a sick child; being spat and coughed upon in a deliberate and theatrical manner; or being refused entry to a business because of ‘concern for health reasons,’ these and other acts of intolerance are confronting our Asian American community every day.”
Avva and Lam-Balfour are co-chairs of the Triad Pan Asian American Network (TPAAN). Lindsay is director of Community Philanthropy for the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro.
They were warning us then that we’re not immune from a brand of hate spawned by a viral brew of racial animosity and willful ignorance.
As for the Georgia tragedy, we don’t know for certain whether the alleged shooter, a white man, the son of a pastor, was motivated by race. He has claimed otherwise — that it was his “sexual addiction that led to the killings.”
But the trend lines point to a troubling rise in assault and abuse of Asian Americans since COVID-19 first took hold in the United States. Stop AAPI Hate, a national database, reported 3,975 incidents of discrimination toward people of Asian descent between March 19, 2020, and Feb. 18, 2021.
Among them was a 91-year-old man who was shoved to the ground in Oakland, Calif.’s Chinatown. Also attacked in Oakland were a 60-year-old and a 55-year-old who was knocked unconscious. In those cases, the alleged attacker was a young Black man.
There have been other incidents. In 2020, a man in Texas stabbed an Asian American family of three because, in his words, “they were Chinese and infecting people with the coronavirus.”
As president, Donald Trump only made matters worse by calling COVID-19 “the China virus” and “the Kung flu.”
Now a new president, Joe Biden, has labeled this verbal and physical abuse as un-American. It is, in fact, all too American. Discrimination toward Asians has been tightly woven into U.S. history for hundreds of years:
An 1871 riot that culminated in the hangings of 18 Chinese men and boys in Los Angeles Chinatown
In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act, which effectively banned Chinese immigration until 1943.
In 1885, the massacre of 28 Chinese by their white co-workers who had blamed them for poor work conditions in a Wyoming mine.
In 1942, the imprisonment of 120,000 Japanese Americans in internment camps.
In 1981, the torching of Vietnamese refugees’ homes and boats in Texas out of resentment of the Vietnam War.
And so on, until last week.
In Greensboro, where more than 100 languages are spoken and cultural and racial diversity are embraced, we have a good story to tell. But we are not perfect.
So, we can be supportive and welcoming in a town with a rich history in civil rights. We can stand with those who would be marginalized and scapegoated.
And we can be vigilant, knowing that it can happen anywhere.
Nearly a year ago, Uma Avva, Tiff any Lam-Balfour and Athan Lindsay noted the ephemeral stereotype of Asian Americans as the model minority through a quote from Korean actor John Cho.
Cho added: “The pandemic is reminding us that our belonging is conditional. One moment we are Americans, the next we are all foreigners who ‘brought’ the virus here.”
These fellow Americans don’t deserve to have an asterisk attached to their status. They are not “conditional” citizens.
And we must assure them, as their friends, neighbors and co-workers, that we know they are not.
Could it happen here?
Only if we let it.
The News & Observer on Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson:
Many in North Carolina might rightfully wonder: Just what does the lieutenant governor do?
Usually, the post is a low-profile and largely ceremonial one. But Republican Dan Forest and now his fellow Republican and successor, Mark Robinson, have given the job a sharply defined function: The lieutenant governor promotes political polarization.
Robinson, who is Black and an unlikely ambassador for white, conservative grievance, assumed the state’s second highest political office in January. He has taken up the role of being ill-informed and divisive with gusto.
As a member of the State Board of Education, Robinson objected that new state standards for social studies were “anti-American” distortions. He lost that dispute, but he’s not giving up. The lieutenant governor has formed a task force to collect complaints from parents who think their children are being subjected to “indoctrination” by politically liberal instruction in the public schools.
Robinson said at a Tuesday news conference that during his 2020 campaign he was “besieged by folks who were complaining about things their students and their children were having to learn in public schools that were contrary to their own beliefs.”
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.
Robinson, who is serving in his first elected office, came to the attention of conservatives in a viral video in which he championed gun rights (an issue that’s a real concern for schools). He then gained notice for his crass attacks on people in his Facebook posts.
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.
As usual with Robinson, there’s nothing original here. He is just tearing a page from the playbook of divisive politics and waving it before the cameras. Consider what then-President Donald Trump said, disgracefully, in his 2020 speech at Mt. Rushmore: “Against every law of society and nature, our children are taught in school to hate their own country and to believe that the men and women who built it were not heroes, but that they were villains.”
That’s nonsense. Even Trump knows it.
Teachers’ political views and styles vary, but they are overwhelmingly conscientious and dedicated people who provide broadly accepted instruction about the nation’s history and social conditions. What’s taught is more accurate now than ever as the experiences and views of minorities are being provided their rightful place in America’s story.
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.
An uneven but ongoing commitment to equality and freedom and an openness to learn and grow from its mistakes have made the United States not only a strong nation, but a noble one. If Robinson would stop listening for what he wants to hear and instead hear what teachers teach, he would know that.