It has been said that the privilege of a lifetime is being who you are. Actor James Tyler in the movie “Dear White People” received a huge backlash from some members of the African-American community when he portrayed Lionel Higging, a gay black university student dealing with the complexity of both his racial identity and sexuality. His comments that the black community is “notoriously homophobic” were not received well, although I tend to agree.
Once again, during an important election cycle, the black community has been subjected to a repeated rhythm of fear and drawn into the battle of sexual choice with the introduction of HB2, which Dr. William Barber of the NAACP calls a Trojan horse. But the issue is a smokescreen to divert attention away from the real issues that need addressing. Gov. Pat McCrory understands the sentiment of HB2, and it is a way for him to generate a percentage of the African-American vote.
Bathroom-gate may be exactly what the governor needs to bail him out of a deplorable political record.
The African-American community should not succumb to this trickery played by the local Republican Party. This is one of the most important elections in our state’s history, a vote now based on fear, spiritual presumptions and transgender politics. This election can set back civil rights gains, which our ancestors fought and died for, into a chasm that would take years to dig out of.
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HB2 is not just about bathrooms or transgender politics. It also prevents city and county governments from setting minimum wage standards for private employers and prevents or blocks a path for individuals to sue based on discrimination claims. So, those making minimum wage will have to rely on the generosity of their companies to give them pay raises. This is a short cut to eliminate minimum wages in North Carolina.
This election is too important to vote out of unnecessary fear. The community cannot be hoodwinked by homophobic paranoia, when the key issues for African-Americans are health care, jobs, incarceration, education, poverty, voter ID laws, unequal schools in dilapidated buildings, rise in hate groups, poverty, low teacher wages and an unbalanced and unjust criminal justice system.
Our vote is vital this year locally and nationally. The Wake school board as we know it will be vastly different next year because of redistricting or gerrymandered districts where Democratic incumbents will have to face one another. In Susan Evans’ district, there would have been three incumbents running against one another. Evans has graciously bowed out and is in a tight Senate race where the African-American vote will be desperately needed. The same goes for Deborah Ross, who is running against Sen. Richard Burr, and Dan Blue III will need black votes as he runs for treasurer. Nationally, there will be 469 congregational seats in the House and Senate up for grabs.
African-Americans cannot afford to be tricked when it comes to bathroom-gate and transgender politics and vote for candidates simply because they support HB2. In short, it’s time to take back our state.
Dr. Earl C. Johnson is the former president of the Raleigh Wake Citizens Association.