“Protect the People”:
Open Letter to Gov. Pat McCrory
Dear Governor McCrory:
I recently read a news story that reported the following:
“‘Governor Pat McCrory has sworn to uphold the constitution. He will not assume powers not provided to him by law and it is clear he does not have the authority to unilaterally stop the issuance of license plates granted to civic organizations such as the Sons of the Confederacy,’ said Graham Wilson, the governor’s press secretary. ‘Governor McCrory will stop the issuance of the Confederate battle flag license plates once the General Assembly provides the legal authority through statute. If the NAACP and the liberal groups are truly interested in stopping these plates from being issued, they will petition the General Assembly. Once Governor McCrory is given the legal authority, he will resolve this issue once and for all.’”
Governor, I want to believe that these were not your own intentions but those of a misguided staff person. In light of the long history of the South and the recent tragedy in Charleston, surely you do not believe that the issue over the Confederate battle flag boils down to one of liberal versus conservative ideals. Certainly in South Carolina it does not.
Likewise I am sure you know that the NAACP is not liberal or conservative but a civil rights organization made up of people of all political persuasions. The long history of the Confederate battle flag shows that it has been used for considerably more than a century as a symbol of white supremacy and racist terror.
Like you, I get a lot of hate mail. Here is just one example among many of the kind of hateful emails that have come into our office since we challenged the Confederate monument bill that the legislature passed and you signed, despite your misgivings about its usurpation of local government:
This is the kind of hate that these things stir up, and which the Republican leadership in South Carolina declined to feed any further.
Governor, I am willing as always to meet with you and our team and support your taking the authority you do have to stop the issue of Confederate battle flag license tags and the moral authority you have to invalidate your signature on the bill that keeps local governments from deciding how to commemorate their own history. If lawyers can prove that you don’t have the authority to stop the issuance of the license tags, we will support you in putting forward a bill to do so. It is you, however, who must take leadership.
Your leadership should also allow North Carolina to protect voting rights, expand Medicaid, nurture public education, end racial profiling, and provide living wages to working people. Each of these, left unimplemented, will continue to have a disparate impact on African Americans, other minorities, women and the poor, according to the best scholars. In that sense, then, these issues are not about ideology but about equal protection under the law and what the North Carolina Constitution puts this way: “Beneficent provision for the poor, the unfortunate, and the orphan is one of the first duties of a civilized and Christian state.” Surely we can agree on that.
In truth, we have no personal dislike against you; we would love few things more than to see you go down in history as a great Southern governor. Your staff in their response to the media spoke of the Constitution. Both the Constitution and the word of God call you to do justice and to love mercy, and the time to act is now.
Yours in Hope,
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II
President, North Carolina NAACP
and Convener, Forward Together Moral Movement
cc: Phil Berger, NC Senate President Pro Tempore
Tim Moore, Speaker of the NC House of Representatives