Op-Ed

NC legislature has ill-served African-Americans

The Rev. William Barber, president of the state chapter of the NAACP, being arrested Tuesday at the state Legislative Building in Raleigh during a protest of the legislature’s refusal to expand Medicaid.
The Rev. William Barber, president of the state chapter of the NAACP, being arrested Tuesday at the state Legislative Building in Raleigh during a protest of the legislature’s refusal to expand Medicaid. tlong@newsobserver.com

As I ponder the recent movements of the N.C. Legislature, elected by North Carolinians who knew exactly who they were voting for, there is one question in particular that keeps me awake at night: Is North Carolina a safe haven for African-Americans?

Recent laws passed by the legislature lead me to the conclusion that North Carolina is not pro-African-American. Laws passed this year and in previousyears will bear this out. First, Republican lawmakers started gerrymandering districts with “surgical precision,” intending to disenfranchise the African-American vote. The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down these districts.

There was the work to restrict voting rights by passing voter ID laws under the presupposition that widespread voter fraud exists, especially among black voters.

They passed into law a bill that would reduce early voting sites, knowing that African-Americans are more likely to vote early, which can greatly impact an election. In some cases, they wanted to reduce early voting to one or two weeks, or even a weekend.

They cut unemployment benefits and reduced the amount of pay individuals would receive. Although this will affect all unemployed persons, it disproportionately affected African-Americans. They also wanted to drug-test food stamp recipients.

Republican lawmakers have refused to provide Medicaid expansion that would cover 400,000 to 500,000 citizens, again many of whom are African Americans.

They have reduced funding for early education like Smart Start and early day care. They have siphoned funding earmarked for urban schools and shifted those funds to charter and private schools in an attempt to dismantle urban public schools. This shows a devaluing of African-American education. What’s worse, they have not put enough pressure on the federal government to provide funding for poor African-Americans who lost everything in one of North Carolina’s worst hurricane events.

They passed a bill at 3 a.m. that would take school funding and other pet projects away from poor rural districts. This is racism in its ugliest form and has no place in state politics. This act of vengeance will surely come back to haunt them.

Further, they have passed laws that make it impossible for local counties to pass minimum wage laws, making the rich richer and the poor poorer. They have followed President Donald Trump in defunding Planned Parenthood, which is needed more than ever because of low wages and lack of health care for the poor.

African-Americans have been colonized by the Republican Party of North Carolina, with political domination over the poor and the very poor. Colonization dehumanizes individuals and reduces them to a state of nonexistence and produces stereotypes that African-Americans are unable to govern themselves. What the colonizers fail to realize is that people are inherently equal.; not by an act of any legislative decree, but by God almighty.

Knowing that people who were elected to preserve the state and national constitutions have neglected to do so for all people is outrageous. For those who voted to keep these people in office, you have done a disservice to your state by promoting perpetual racism. The time is now for African-Americans to rise up and make some noise. Again, I ask, is North Carolina good for African-Americans? As I see it now, the answer is a resounding no.

Rev. Dr. Earl C. Johnson is the former president of the Raleigh-Wake Citizens Association and the founder of The Success Dream Center, a self-help organization.

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