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PlaceMattersBTCThis blog post is part of a series called Place Matters. The other posts can be accessed here, here, and here.

The Voting Rights Act subjected 40 percent of North Carolina’s counties to the mandatory “pre-clearance” regulations of Section 5, requiring approval of the Department of Justice or the courts before electoral changes that might weaken the voting power of African American. The evisceration of this landmark legislation by the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder—and subsequent the omission of North Carolina from the covered jurisdictions in newly introduced voting rights legislation—leaves racially excluded communities particularly vulnerable to political isolation and electoral powerlessness.

The UNC Center for Civil Rights’ State of Exclusion report looked at majority-minority North Carolina communities of color (over 75 percent) and measured a variety of factors impacting the quality of life for residents of those communities. The data with regard to political representation was telling, and emphasizes the need for expanding, rather than eliminating, effective policies measures to address the continuing legacy of discrimination in elections. Read More

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Gay prideOne of the most amazing developments in recent public policy debates has been the emergence of so much common ground between so-called Christian conservatives and the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Who would have guessed that just a few decades after Ronald Reagan sought to confront the leaders in the Kremlin over what he called their “evil empire,” that his and their successors would find so much to share?

There’s the mutual devotion to unfettered plutocratic capitalism, the shared belief that environmentalists should be generally ignored, the common desire to link church and state and, perhaps most famously of late, the fact that both parties are willing to do whatever it takes to marginalize and discriminate against the LGBT community.

This strange mutual admiration society has arguably reached new heights in recent weeks with the largely successful Sochi Olympic games in which Putin emerged stronger than ever and the rise of a new wave of Putinist anti-gay proposals in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Happily, however, the whole bizarre and disturbing union suffered a big setback yesterday when Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona bowed to widespread national pressure (the owners of the NFL, for instance, made it clear they’d take back the 2015 Super Bowl from Phoenix if she signed it) and vetoed a proposal that would have permitted discrimination against gays in the name of “religious freedom.”

Let’s hope this is the beginning of the end for American Putinism, but given the Russian leader’s relative youth and vast fossil fuels-based wealth (and the passion that so many misguided Americans still bring to the cause of social reaction), we’re probably not out of the woods yet.

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MLKAs conservative politicians like Gov. Pat McCrory dutifully troop to public platforms all over America today to laud Martin Luther King, Jr. and his accomplishments from the safe distance of 46 years, the good folks at Think Progress have posted a couple of articles this morning that remind us of some facts that are unlikely to make their way into many of these speeches and proclamations.

In “Why Martin Luther King’s dream is still unfulfilled,” Annie-Rose Strasser highlights “four of the things King demanded but never saw completed”: a living wage, desegregation, fair voting and unfettered unionization.

Meanwhile, in “4 ways Martin Luther King was more radical than you thought,” Igor Volsky points out that King pushed for a government-guaranteed right to a job, was a critic of capitalism and materialism, denounced the Vietnam War and was a champion of Planned Parenthood and reproductive rights.

In many ways, some of today’s events are reminiscent of the speeches and statements that accompanied the recent passing of Nelson Mandela (an icon who was actually, amazingly enough, older than King). It’s great that conservatives are lining up to laud MLK; it just would be nice of they’d also line up to laud all of the things for which he fought.

 

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From the good folks at the ACLU-NC:

Randolph Board Votes to Reverse Ban on “Invisible Man”
ACLU of NC Says Episode is Valuable Reminder of Duty to Promote Academic Freedom and Reject Censorship

ASHEBORO – Tonight, the Randolph County Board of Education voted 6-1 to reverse its previous vote banning Ralph Ellison’s literary classic, “The Invisible Man,” from Randolph County schools.

In response, Chris Brook, Legal Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) released the following statement:

“Tonight, the Randolph County Board of Education righted a wrong. The freedom to read is just as essential to a healthy democracy as the freedom of speech and all other rights protected by the U.S. Constitution. This episode should serve as a valuable reminder to students, teachers, parents, and school officials across the state of our ongoing duty to promote academic freedom, ensure the free exchange of ideas and information, and reject the always looming threat that censorship and suppression, for any reason, pose to a free society.” 

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Julius ChambersThe tributes to civil rights hero Julius Chambers (whose funeral will take place tomorrow in Charlotte) have been pouring in from many places. Click here to read Monday’s Charlotte Observer editorial.

Another one worth your time is this one by veteran Raleigh journalist and commentator Barlow Herget:

Julius Chambers passing by

There’s a scene in the classic movie, “To Kill a Mockingbird” where the black Reverend Sykes is sitting in the segregated balcony of the courthouse at the end of the trial.

When Atticus Finch is leaving the courtroom, Mr. Sykes rises as do all the blacks.  He tells Finch’s tomboy daughter Scout who is sitting with the minister to stand.  She asks, “Why?”

“Because your father’s passing by,” replies Reverend Sykes.

All North Carolina should rise at the “passing” of Julius Chambers. Read More