Education, Higher Ed, News, race

Darrell Allison, chair of Racial Equity Task Force, resigns from UNC Board of Governors

UNC Board of Governors member Darrell Allison abruptly resigned from the board last week, citing “personal reasons.”

In a letter to N.C. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, Allison called serving on the board a “high honor.”

“And while I am most confident that our UNC System will find its way trough the many challenges it currently faces, it must do so without my continued service on this board,” Allison wrote.

His resignation, effective September 23, creates a vacancy that must be filled by the N.C. General Assembly.


Allison, one of  just three voting Black members on the 24-member board, was tapped to chair the board’s Racial Equity Task Force, which began meeting in July. The task force and its work were personally important to Allison, who in his resignation letter cited his undergraduate education at North Carolina Central University and said his work on the board has allowed him to “work hard in supporting and advocating for many of our historically minority-serving institutions, and our other smaller institutions which comprise our System with genuine knowledge of need and concern.”

At its first meeting the task force heard a report on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion survey results that found the system falling below its benchmarks. In fact, the results were worse than those from 2018.

When the task force was launched, board Chairman Randy Ramsey and UNC System Interim President Bill Roper made a strong statement about the importance of its work in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and the movement for reform that followed.

“George Floyd died a horrible, violent, and unjust death at the hands of a white police officer,” Ramsey and Roper wrote in the statement. “This immoral and indefensible act cries out for justice and compels all of us fully to recognize and grapple with our country’s history of racism and oppression that has so often resulted in violence. As members of the University community, it is our obligation and responsibility to do the hard work needed to address inequities in the UNC System for the benefit of students, faculty, staff, and all North Carolinians.”

Darrell Allison, UNC Board of Governors member and Chairman of the board’s Racial Equity Task Force.

Since then Republican sentiment on race equity work has turned sharply negative at the state and national level — particularly with regard to the “history of racism and oppression that has so often resulted in violence” Ramsey and Roper cited.

Earlier this month President Donald Trump threatened to cut federal funding to schools that teach The New York Times Magazine’s 1619 project. He also had the federal Office of Management and Budget prohibit departments from use of federal funds for executive branch staff training that includes critical race theory and the concept of white privilege as a component of systemic racism in the history of the United States and in contemporary life. That ban was later expanded to include federal contractors.

“Instructors and materials teaching that men and members of certain races, as well as our most venerable institutions, are inherently sexist and racist are appearing in workplace diversity trainings across the country, even in components of the Federal Government and among Federal contractors,” an executive order on the matter read.

“Americans should be taught to take PRIDE in our Great Country, and if you don’t there’s nothing in it for you!” Trump tweeted on the decision.

Trump reiterated his opposition to race equity and racial sensitivity training in Tuesday night’s debate with Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

“They were teaching people to hate our country, that it’s a horrible place, it’s a racist place, and they were teaching people to hate our country,” Trump said. “And I’m not going to allow that to happen.”

Allison, who is politically unaffiliated, is one of just five members on the 24-member board who is not a registered Republican. There are no registered Democrats on the board.

Allison is heavily involved with issues and campaigns important to the GOP, however. He is past president of school choice advocacy group Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina and was on the North Carolina steering committee for Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential bid.

On Thursday Ramsey released a written statement thanking Allison for his service.

“I would like to thank Darrell Allison for his valued and thoughtful service on this Board, particularly as Chair of the Racial Equity Task Force and the Committee on Historically Minority-Serving Institutions,” Ramsey said. ” Darrell is a passionate advocate for public higher education and the entire UNC System and he we will be missed. I’m also confident Reggie Holley will continue to advance the important work of the Racial Equity Task Force and build upon the accomplishments of the HMSI Committee formerly under Darrell’s leadership.”

Courts & the Law, COVID-19, News, public health, race

Congressman, State Senator talk “dire” state of COVID response, looming Supreme Court fight in town hall

“The situation is dire,” Rep. David Price (D – N.C.) told a virtual town hall Wednesday night. “I’m not going to sugar coat it in any way.”

The event, held by progressive group ActionNC, brought together Price, State Sen. Natalie Murdock (D-Durham) and progressive advocates to talk with North Carolinians about COVID-19, the future of the Supreme Court and what it means for health care and the Affordable Care Act.

Rep. David Price


“I can’t possibly overstate the magnitude of this loss,” Price said of the recent death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, calling her “a giant” who left a lasting impact on the law, women’s rights and voting rights.

The push by President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans to replace Ginsburg less than two months before the November election is a hypocritical “power grab” that threatens the legitimacy of the court, Price said.

It also imperils the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans hope to overturn through legal challenges.

“This November the Supreme Court will hear a case that could determine the future of the Affordable Care Act,” Price said. The outcome of that case could mean a return to patients being denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions, life-time caps on coverage and the loss of coverage for millions who have come to rely on it.

The rush to replace Ginsburg and constant assaults on the ACA are indicative of “the Republican Senate becoming a graveyard for so much that the country needs,” Price said.

Price and Murdock both said lawmakers — in Washington and in Raleigh — should instead be concentrating on helping Americans during an ongoing pandemic that has already claimed 200,000 lives and devastated the economy.

“North Carolina is facing billions of dollars in revenue shortfalls over the next few years,” Murdock said. “If Congress doesn’t pass a bill with significant aid soon it will force more devastating cuts to food assistance, unemployment benefits, health coverage and other support for struggling families, just when they need help the most.”

State Sen. Natalie Murdock

Price agreed, saying what’s been proposed by Republicans in Congress simply won’t get the job done.

“If they stopped to take one look around, they’d see Americans are clearing food bank shelves, facing threats of eviction and receiving unemployment benefits that don’t come close to paying the bills,” Price said. “They would see small businesses forced to close their doors as demand isn’t keeping pace. Americans can’t afford to wait or suffer any longer. They need a comprehensive relief bill, similar to the Heroes Act. And they need it now.”

Alexandra Sirota, director of the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center, said direct federal aid to people, state and local government is urgently needed.

“”Bolstering state and local infrastructure with federal funds can ensure that every community has what is needed to support families and sustain a response to COVID-19 and the economic downturn until recovery is secure,” Siota said. “North Carolina can’t afford to meet needs alone. The state has already allocated all of the previously provided federal dollars and still there are too many unmet needs, like rental and food assistance. Inaction by the Senate and White House will only extend the harm for people and prolong the downturn.”

The North Carolina Budget and Tax Center is a project of the non-profit North Carolina Justice Center, of which Policy Watch is also a part.

Black and Latinx people are most impacted by the pandemic and its economic fallout, said Mary Williams-Stover, executive director of NC Council for Women & Youth Involvement.

“The COVID pandemic is impacting everyone, but it’s not impacting us all equally,” Williams-Stover said. “All the data shows women are struggling with the aftermath of the pandemic more than men and Black women, who already faced the greatest employment and health care barriers even before COVID due to pre-existing health disparities, are significantly impacted by the pandemic.”

An April report by the Budget and Tax Center found Black people are about 22 percent of the state’s population but make up 38 percent of cases and 37 percent of COVID-infection related deaths. More than 13 percent of Black women in North Carolina are uninsured, ActionNC pointed out, making them particularly vulnerable.

The numbers for Latinx people were even more grim. They make up about 10 percent of the state’s population but 46 percent of COVID cases.

Both Price and Murdock emphasized the need for the North Carolina General Assembly to expand Medicaid in the state. Their refusal to do so has prevented North Carolinians from accessing care that would otherwise be available to them even as other Republican-led states have opted for expansion, they said.

That’s particularly dangerous during a pandemic that imperils both peoples’ health and their economic stability, Price said.

“I’ve always said – and economists of all stripes will back me up on this – the danger is never doing too much,” Price said. “The danger is doing too little.”

Higher Ed, race

UNC System Racial Equity Task force launches community survey, pushes deadline to December

The UNC System Racial Equity Task Force  has extended the deadline for its final report to the UNC Board of Governors. It will now deliver the report December 16 rather than in October, as was previously announced.

The task force launched a system-wide community survey Tuesday that will collect suggestions for that final report.

UNC Board of Governors member Darrell Allison, chair of the Racial Equity Task Force

“We have spent the last few months learning from students, faculty, staff, listening to ideas that will help us improve the UNC System,” said UNC Board of Governors member Darrell Allison, chair of the task force, in a statement Tuesday. “As we continue examining our policies and asking tough questions, I know we’ll come away with some excellent ideas for strengthening our System.”

The board of governors established the task force in June “to examine the legacy of race and racism in North Carolina’s public higher education system.” The group’s work has focused on three major priorities: equity in the recruitment and overall academic experience for students, equity in employee recruitment, hiring, promotion, and leadership opportunities, and building and maintaining safe, inclusive campuses, where students and employees feel a sense of belonging.

The task force was assembled after board members and faculty from various schools called for the system to concentrate on long-neglected race equity issues. It was instigated by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police and the resulting weeks of international protest against police violence and systemic racism.

“George Floyd died a horrible, violent, and unjust death at the hands of a white police officer,” UNC Board of Governors Chair Randy Ramsey and UNC System Interim President Bill Roper wrote in a message to members in June. “This immoral and indefensible act cries out for justice and compels all of us fully to recognize and grapple with our country’s history of racism and oppression that has so often resulted in violence. As members of the University community, it is our obligation and responsibility to do the hard work needed to address inequities in the UNC System for the benefit of students, faculty, staff, and all North Carolinians.”

The force’s next public meeting is scheduled for October 7.

News, race

NC reparation efforts focus on ‘generational wealth,’ avoid direct payments

Dawn Paige, a founder of the Triangle chapter of American Descendants of Slavery (ADOS) and fellow member Johnny Morant. Paige said the Asheville reparations measures are beneficial but not “real reparations” because they do not include cash payments and investments for individuals. Photo by Marco Quiroz-Gutierrez | NC News Intern Corps.

By Anton Delgado and Marco Quiroz-Gutierrez

The approval of reparations for Black residents in Asheville this month is being followed by similar demands in other North Carolina cities.

The historic vote accepted a reparations initiative, part of which aims to provide funding to programs that increase homeownership and business and career opportunities among Black people in Asheville.

“This is an issue that diverse communities across the entire state and country will need to reckon with,” said Keith Young, one of two Black council members and a chief proponent of the measure. “It is my hope that movements like this will spread through not only our state but throughout the entire country because for this to be successful, we need to do it at a local, state and national level.”

Barely a week after the vote in Asheville, a task force asked the Durham City Council to consider similar reparations.

With a modern model in place, political science and public policy experts say it’s likely that other North Carolina communities will follow suit — though some reparations advocates have issues with the model being used.

Analyzing Asheville

In mid-July, the seven members of the Asheville City Council voted unanimously to approve the measure, which stops short of providing direct payments to Black residents.

“It was a moral compass moment,” Young said. “The gravity and the depth of the moment we are in as a nation speaks volumes about the people representing local citizens. No matter what you agree or disagree on, the morality of this issue is what shined bright in that 7-0 vote.”

According to city leaders, the goal of reparations is to help create generational wealth for Black people, who have been disadvantaged throughout American history by disparities in income, education and health care.

As part of the resolution, the approximately 93,000-person city — 12% of which is Black — is calling on the state and federal government to provide funding for the reparations.

“The federal government took an active role in inflicting this harm on Black people, so they should also take an active role in addressing them,” Young said. “If movements like this continue, the government will realize the benefit of giving every citizen a good quality of life and equal opportunities.”

Dawn Paige a founder of the Triangle chapter of American Descendants of Slavery (ADOS), said the efforts the Asheville resolution hopes to accomplish, such as increasing Black home and business ownership are good things, Paige said. But she argues that they are not reparations. . Photo by Marco Quiroz-Gutierrez | NC News Intern Corps

The vote in Asheville comes after months of nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism, sparked by the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis.

“A lot of issues relating to racism show how much we have not achieved and how far we still have to go in terms of what is going on with Black Lives Matter and the inhuman treatment of minorities in this country,” said Emmanuel Oritsejafor, chair of the political science department at North Carolina Central University — a historically Black institution.

“It may take a local model, like the one in Asheville, to begin to bring the consciousness level back to the mainstream of why it is important to address racism and all forms of dehumanizing behavior.”

Other advocates say the responsibility for reparations lies with the federal government.

“Real reparations” should be cash payments and investments made by the federal government to individuals, said Dawn Paige, a founder of the Triangle chapter of American Descendants of Slavery. ADOS is a national organization that “seeks to reclaim/restore the critical national character of the African American identity and experience.”

“What you have at the state level can never and should never be misconstrued as reparations,” Paige said. “Because there are no real measures that are included that will close the racial wealth gap.”

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Education, Higher Ed, race, What's Race Got To Do With It?

UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees votes to remove white supremacist names from buildings

The UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees voted Wednesday to remove the names of three white supremacists from buildings on the school’s campus.

The names of Charles B. Aycock, Julian S. Carr and Josephus Daniels will all be removed from the buildings that have long held their names, beginning Wednesday afternoon.

“Aycock, Daniels, and Carr led the Democratic Party’s white supremacy campaigns of 1898 and 1900,” the school’s Commission on History, Race & A Way Forward wrote in its resolution on the issue. “Aycock was a key strategist in both campaigns and ran as the party’s gubernatorial candidate in 1900; Daniels, editor and publisher of the Raleigh News and Observer, served as chief propagandist; and Carr, a Durham industrialist and leader of the United Confederate Veterans in North Carolina, provided financial backing.”

“Together, they fought to disenfranchise black men and to establish the regime of Jim Crow,” the commission wrote. “Which for more than half a century denied black North Carolinians equal justice and the fundamental rights of citizenship

The name of Thomas Ruffin Sr. will also be removed from a building on campus. Ruffin Sr. was a North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice. Known as a particularly cruel enslaver, he used his legal position to ignore legal precedents and grant more power to his fellow enslavers and expand their ability to brutalize enslaved people.

“His ruling in State v. Mann is known as ’the coldest and starkest defense of the physical violence inherent in slavery that ever appeared in an American judicial opinion,’” the Commission on History, Race & A Way Forward wrote in describing his legacy.

A portrait of Ruffin Sr. was recently removed from the historic Orange County Courthouse in Hillsborough.

But the building named for him at UNC will still carry the Ruffin name. It was also named for his son, Thomas Ruffin Jr. The trustees found that there wasn’t enough evidence about Ruffin’s son to remove his name, but signs on inside and outside the building will make clear it is named for Thomas Ruffin Jr.

Thomas Ruffin Sr.

Students and faculty quickly criticized that decision, pointing out that historical evidence indicates Thomas Ruffin Jr.  — a Confederate officer and one-term legislator —  also held white supremacist views. He publicly argued for amnesty for Ku Klux Klan members charged with murder in Alamance County in 1873.

Charles B. Aycock was a prominent UNC alumnus and governor of North Carolina whose political career was built on white supremacist rhetoric. Other schools, including UNC-Greensboro, have already removed his name from buildings.

Julian Carr, a wealthy industrialist and UNC trustee, was also Ku Klux Klan member who publicly bragged about beating a black woman during his speech at the dedication of the Silent Sam Confederate monument in 1913. That statue was toppled by protesters in 2018.

Josephus Daniels

Josephus Daniels was publisher of The News & Observer, a position he used to promote white supremacist policies and stoke violence against Black communities in North Carolina. A statue of Daniels was recently removed from Nash Square in downtown Raleigh, where it stood across from the former News & Observer building.

Speaking at Wednesday’s board meeting, UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said continuing to honor Aycock, Carr and Daniels threatened the integrity of the university and its goal of creating a diverse, inclusive community.

The men’s views and actions did not merely reflect a different time, Guskiewicz said.

“The actions of these individuals were egregious even for their time,” Guskiewicz said. “and their conduct was central to their careers and lives as a whole. There is no evidence their views moderated or changed in their lifetimes and the accounts of their behavior are supported by documentary evidence.”

New permanent names for the buildings have not yet been announced.

The Commission on History, Race and a Way Forward will continue its work.

“We believe that other names on the landscape warrant action,” the commission wrote in its resolution. “We will make additional recommendations based on archival research and engagement with stakeholders on campus and in the broader community.”