Letters to the Editor

A look at what you had to say in 2017

The 'Silent Sam' statue, a memorial to Confederate soldiers, on the University of North Carolina’s Chapel Hill campus was covered in black cloth as few hundred demonstrators gathered at the statue Sunday, August 13, 2017 after violent clashes between white supremacists and counter protesters in Charlottesville, Va. turned deadly on Saturday.
The 'Silent Sam' statue, a memorial to Confederate soldiers, on the University of North Carolina’s Chapel Hill campus was covered in black cloth as few hundred demonstrators gathered at the statue Sunday, August 13, 2017 after violent clashes between white supremacists and counter protesters in Charlottesville, Va. turned deadly on Saturday. tlong@newsobserver.com

This Sunday Forum takes a look back at 2017 through letters to the editor, presenting letters on both sides of local issues that defined the year in N.C.

Add context to statues

The recent appalling events in Charlottesville prompted action as reported in “Protesters topple confederate soldier statue in downtown Durham” (Aug. 14). It is never prudent to try and destroy or erase history as it is important to not just remember, but to own the scar of slavery, secession and treason that is an undeniable chapter in the history of North Carolina.

Advocates need to advocate not for the removal of these markers, but instead for them to be repurposed from a glorification of these atrocities to a reminder of how good people can make the mistake of taking up arms in the defense of an economic system that benefits only the wealthy through the ultimate form of exploitation. Let’s erect new symbols defining the struggles and triumphs of those who have been oppressed by this country since its inception. History is a story, and it is time not to rip out the pages, but instead add the chapters that will give future generations an honest look at who we are as a people, as a state and as a country so they will never repeat the shameful acts those statues represent.

Donald Addu


Understanding Confederates

Regarding “Durham sheriff arrests ladder climber in Confederate statue destruction” (Aug. 15): After destroying a Confederate statue dedicated to “the boys in gray” in Durham this week, the offender stated: “It’s white supremacy, plain and simple. It had to go.”

I strongly disagree. Two of my ancestors participated in the Civil War and wore the “gray.” They both lived in central North Carolina. One was a farmer. Neither owned slaves. I don’t know what battles, if any, they were in, but they both spent the last months of the war in Union prison camps. Too many folks today think that all Confederate soldiers were fighting to preserve slavery. I disagree.

When I was sent to Vietnam in 1969, I believed that we were there to protect the United States from communism. That’s what we were told. I also believe my ancestors were told that the Yankees were coming, burning homes, towns and crops and raping and killing innocent people. That kind of propaganda always happens in war. And it happened in the Civil War. My guess is that many young men picked up their weapons to defend their “homeland,” not to defend slavery. Honoring those folks, many who never came home, is not white supremacy, or racism.

Phil Partin


Democrats gerrymandered too

When N.C. Democrats were in charge they blatantly gerrymandered state legislative and congressional districts to minimize the number of Republicans and blacks elected. North Carolina’s Constitution provided for multi-member state Senate districts and forbade splitting counties. When the latter provision was voided by the courts, Democrats used multi-member districts for racial gerrymandering, by “diluting” mostly-black Democratic city precincts with suburban and rural precincts from other counties, to create districts which were “safe” for white Democrats. It was outrageous, and racist, and terribly unjust.

Additionally, they drew Republican districts with more voters than Democrat districts. It wasn’t just because Republican constituencies are more engaged and informed, and more likely to register and vote. Democrats designed the districts that way, to minimize the number of Republican legislators. They “padded” Democrat districts with precincts containing lots of “census bodies” but few voters, like prisons, and military bases, to draw more majority-Democrat districts with few voters, and fewer majority-Republican districts with lots of voters. Forget “one man one vote.”

So it takes a lot of chutzpah for those same white Democrats to complain about Republican-drawn districts, now.

David A. Burton


Keep counties undivided

Republican legislators have adopted rules for redrawing legislative district lines are self-serving – taking voting records into account, protecting incumbents – but couldn’t they at least follow the state Constitution? That document provides that: “No county shall be divided in the formation of a Senate district”; and “No county shall be divided in the formation of a House district.”

Granted, in the past, courts have allowed these provisions to be violated under the implausible theory that it is sufficient for districts to be limited to a group of counties. But this goes against the plain wording of the Constitution, which requires that the number of divided counties be minimized. Keeping counties undivided would not prevent partisan gerrymandering but would at least conform to the constitution.

Stanley Henshaw


Private school reasoning

Thanks for, in “Public schools still standing tall for N.C.” (July 26), supporting public schools and calling out conservatives in the N.C. General Assembly and elsewhere who maliciously paint public education as “a failing relic of the past.”

However, I take exception to the assertion that Republicans who want to weaken or destroy public schools do it “just for political sport” or that their sight is “short” in the process. Dismantling public education is one of the key elements in an economic/political philosophy and long-term strategy designed to turn back New Deal democracy and return the country to a free market basis of individual “liberty” where property rights are paramount. In this philosophy, expanded voting rights, LGBTQ rights, universal health care, organized labor and financial assistance for the poor, children and the aged or disabled are seen as antithetical to freedom.

However anti-democratic and misguided this philosophy may be for 21st-century America, it has deep, longstanding and well-funded underpinnings and appeals to many people who do not experience diversity, expanded rights and collective responsibilities in a growing democracy as desirable.

Doug Jennette


Help fund schools

Each WCPSS graduating class adds more than $86 million to local property values. That figure is huge. Few like higher taxes, but I also don’t want to see our economy and housing market sink.

Across the country, few cities like Raleigh have such a unified and strong school system. Our legislature and federal government are working to undermine that, with increasing funding for charter schools and private schools. This will hurt our children and our community in the long run. We need our commissioners to stand up for public schools. The current budget is not enough. Please help fund our schools.

Amy Womble