North Carolina NAACP President William Barber is on the money again this week with an op-ed in Soujourner magazine (co-written with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove) about some of the less well-reported facts about Gov. Pat McCrory’s new discrimination law.
As Barber highlights, it’s been lost in the widespread outrage over the LGBT discrimination language in the new law that the law also targets other vulnerable people — especially people of color — for unfair treatment. One section, for instance, repeals the common law right of North Carolinians to sue in state court for discrimination in the workplace. This makes one of just two states (Mississippi is the other — what a surprise!) to sink to this level.
But wait, it gets worse. Here’s Barber:
“This week in North Carolina, Tammy Covil, a Republican candidate for a House seat in N.C.’s General Assembly, sent out a campaign flier that said, ‘Liberals in our state voted to potentially allow sexual predators access to women’s bathrooms!’ The picture on the flier showed a young white woman entering a restroom where a young black man in a hoodie was lurking in the corner. ‘We must stop this liberal movement that puts the innocent at risk and forsakes our Family Values,’ the flier concluded. Once again, the message was clear: The good white people of North Carolina must rise up and take control.
In the quick and heated discussion about HB2, this lurking racism was missed, even by some African-American legislators who voted for the bill. A closer look reveals the more sinister intent of this ’emergency’ session. While Section 1 of the bill is an attack on equal protection — not just for transgender people, but for all sexual minorities — the ‘Wage and Hour Act’ of Section 2 has nothing to do with LGBTQ issues. Citing the ‘police power of the State,’ lawmakers asserted their authority to override local efforts to raise the minimum wage and protect the civil rights of local residents. In a sweeping power grab, extremist Republicans violated their own political philosophy to exert control over municipalities where the electorate is more diverse. Exploiting public fear and ignorance, they persuaded some Democrats to vote with them. The bill was signed by Gov. Pat McCrory before anyone outside the legislature had time to review it.”
As Barber goes on to point out, McCrory’s new law is really a matter of all of the Right’s worst instincts and fears coming to the fore as they seek to undermine the progressive, multi-racial fusion politics that has been unleashed in the state in recent years:
“Tipping their hand in this extreme overreach, North Carolina’s General Assembly confirmed this week what our Forward Together Moral Movement has argued for the past 10 years — namely, that white elites who have controlled this state are afraid of the fusion coalition that has united around issues of economic empowerment, public education, access to health care, expansion of voting rights, and equal protection under the law. A federal court recently ruled that their race-based gerrymandering of voting districts was unconstitutional, forcing them to redraw congressional districts for this year’s election. They have used their power to remake North Carolina’s government, suppress the vote, and illegally arrest more than 1,050 citizens who raised a moral dissent. But they are worried even that is not enough. With HB2, they have resorted to the race baiting of 120 years ago.”
Happily, though, Barber sees HB2 as one of the the dying gasps of a failed ideology:
“Still, we have a saying down here in the South: ‘A dying mule kicks the hardest.’ If today’s extremists are willing to stoop this low, they must be desperate. They know their days are numbered as they watch white male voters become one among many minorities in the Old North State, while those who have been divided by the Southern strategy continue to stand together. As they desperately work to sow the seeds of fear, we stand with our LGBTQ sisters and brothers, our friends in the Fight for 15, our undocumented neighbors, and the movement for black lives to say, ‘We are North Carolina. We are the future. We aren’t going anywhere. And you have nothing to fear.'”