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Tommy Tucker 2The last time any significant number of North Carolinians were aware of state Senator Tommy Tucker was probably a couple of years ago when the Waxhaw Republican made some incredibly arrogant statements to people trying to inform lawmakers of the truth about some controversial issues.

“I am the senator. You are the citizen. You need to sit down,” was Tucker’s now infamous quote.

Now, Tucker is back in the news making another clueless and borderline offensive remark — this one regarding the victims of the state’s horrific forced sterilization program of the 20th Century and the new and ridiculously inadequate compensation program for victims.

As the Charlotte Observer’s Jim Morrill reported this morning, advocates for eugenics victims are pointing out the existence of a truck-sized loophole in the compensation law. Under the law, hundreds, if not thousands, of people are being denied compensation because their sterilizations took place in county facilities rather than state facilities.

This is, by any fair assessment, outrageous. To think that victims will have to go to the expense and trouble of taking up their compensation claims against individual  counties after decades of effort to get a state compensation law through is simply astounding. Unfortunately, good ol’ Senator Tucker doesn’t see it that way. This is from the Observer article:

“Sen. Tommy Tucker, a Union County Republican who co-chairs the Senate’s appropriations committee on Health and Human Services, said ‘the state’s done its part.’

‘They should go to the county where they were sterilized, not the state,’ he said of those victims. ‘The state’s done its part to right the wrongs that we did, but the county should be responsible for what it did.’

Uh, pardon us Senator, but the last time we checked, the counties of North Carolina were creatures of the state. Moreover, forced sterilization was, by any fair assessment, a monstrous state-supported initiative with disastrous statewide results. The victims have already been denied justice for far too long and the compensation packages available are already inadequate. That the state of North Carolina would attempt play a game of bait and switch with such an abused group of human beings is almost beyond comprehension.

Please do the right thing, Senator. Help get all of these injured people the money they deserve ASAP and then just sit down and be quiet.

Commentary

The Daily Beast reported yesterday on the fact that, despite America’s rapidly growing racial and ethnic diversity, the United States Congress remains an overwhelming white, male and Christian-dominated institution.

“The breakdown of the 114th Congress is 80 percent white, 80 percent male, and 92 percent Christian….It’s impossible to make the claim that our Congress accurately reflects the demographics of our nation. And it’s not missing by a little but a lot. If Congress accurately reflected our nation on the basis of race, about 63 percent would be white, not 80 percent. Blacks would hold about 13 percent of the seats and Latinos 17 percent.”

Sadly, a look at the North Carolina Senate and House of Representatives reveals a striking similar pattern.

In the North Carolina general population, less than one in three individuals is a non-Hispanic white male — around 32%. In state government, however, white men continue to monopolize government leadership positions. In the General Assembly, a quick count shows that more than 64% of the lawmakers (109 out of 170) are non-Hispanic white men. Minorities, who make up more than 35% of the state’s population inhabit just 20% of the seats in General Assembly. And all of those minority members are African American. Latinos, Asians and Pacific Islanders and Native Americans are completely unrepresented despite making up as much as 13% of the population.

Interestingly, white women are also badly underrepresented in the General Assembly. Despite making up around a third of the population, they fill just 15.2% of the seats on Jones Street. Obviously, they fare better in the Council of State — filling five of nine positions. But, of course, the fact that the other four are filled by white men serves to highlight that racial diversity amongst statewide elected officials is essentially non-existent.

As for religion, the Daily Beast notes that: Read More

Commentary
Eric Garner

Photo: www.commondreams.org

The issue of young men of color dying in police custody has been dominating the national news of late and rightfully so. Millions of Americans in many cities — mostly people of color — live in fear and/or distrust of the police in their communities and this is not a recipe for a healthy society. Concerted action — protests, demands, and action by community leaders and elected officials — are all necessary if we are are going to tackle this unacceptable situation.

Dana Millbank of the Washington Post was right recently when he wrote that President Obama would do well to seize the moment surrounding the outrage that’s occurred across the political spectrum in the Eric Garner case out of New York (tragically pictured above) in which a young man was killed by a police choke hold. As Millbank noted, the Garner tragedy offers some glimmers of hope in that the killing is actually drawing harsh assessments from white commentators on the right who rushed to the defense of the police officer in the Ferguson, Missouri case.

What to really DO about the situation, however, is less clear. Millbank says President Obama should  look at creating alternatives the grand juries for investigating police deaths. Others are pushing the idea of police body cameras. Those are both promising ideas as far as they go.

The real solution that no one really seems to want to talk about, however, is this: Read More

Commentary
Lennon Lacy

Lennon Lacy

In case you missed it, the Fayetteville Observer has added its voice to the growing chorus demanding a fully-fledged federal investigation of the hanging death of Bladenboro teen Lennon Lacy.

This is from an editorial published in the paper this week:

An independent pathologist hired by the state branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People says substantial evidence calls the official explanation into doubt and suggests instead that Lacy could have been murdered, with race a motivating factor.

The NAACP has asked Thomas Walker, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, for a federal inquiry into whether a hate crime occurred or Lacy’s civil rights were violated. But Walker’s office doesn’t comment on whether there’s any investigation.

This specific type of death, by hanging of a young African-American male, has a history in this country and this region. That history includes quick dismissals by state and local officials who wanted to look the other way. Because of that history, there are doubts.

The NAACP pathologist’s analysis offers additional cause for doubt. The organization is right to seek federal involvement.

This is not something we want to be in doubt about. We need a genuine effort to discover and analyze the physical and circumstantial evidence in Lacy’s death.

Seek out the truth, then offer a public accounting that will cast aside the burden of doubt.

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.

Commentary

It seems counter-intuitive to many of us that, when confronted with an angry person breaking rules or engaging in questionable behavior, the best course for a person of authority is to simply walk away. But as countless teachers and mental health professionals have learned down through the years, deescalation is, in fact, regularly the best choice.

A fine editorial in this morning’s Greensboro News & Record makes this point — among several others — in a discussion of the Ferguson, Missouri disaster and its implications for other communities with similar police-community tensions. As the editorial notes:

[Former Ferguson police officer Darren] Wilson frequently invokes his ‘training’ in explaining his encounter with Brown, which involved only 90 tragic seconds. But more police forces are stressing ‘de-escalation’ to avert physical confrontations. ‘We haven’t taught officers to just walk away,’ Cambridge, Mass., police Commissioner Robert Haas told the Associated Press. Some situations demand the use of force. Others don’t. In some cases, the best weapons are patience and reason. And the best fight, the one avoided.”

Here in North Carolina — home of the late, great Andy Griffith who taught weekly TV lessons as “the sheriff without a gun” — such an obvious truth ought to already be embedded in our community DNA. Let’s hope experts of all kinds keep speaking up and reminding us of the logic of such an approach until it become common wisdom once again.

Read the entire N&R editorial by clicking here.