Commentary

The best post-Charlottesville observations of the weekend

There were (and continue to be) lots of insightful takes on the Charlottesville disaster and what it says about (and means for) our country. Two of the best this past weekend, however, came from North Carolinians who issued powerful calls to action — not just passive disapproval or disagreement with the racist Right.

In the Charlotte Observer, local Black Lives Matter leader Tiffany Capers penned an on-the-mark assessment of what people who oppose racism need to do. This is from “Not being racist is not enough”:

“Not being prejudice against people of color; not discriminating personally or corporately, not expressing biases – these are good places to start. Not being racist aligns with our moral compass and may cause us to be disgusted by the mistreatment of others. Not being racist is a low bar for most of us.

However, becoming anti-racist moves us beyond a passive response of being appalled by what we see and stating one’s position, values and beliefs. Antiracism is about aligning one’s action with those beliefs; it means opposing racism and not just being offended by it.

Being antiracist requires that we actively learn and deepen our understanding of what racism is; that we accept the discomfort that will ensue; that we explore our biases with courage; we commit to be a part of the solution and we work to develop meaningful connection with people who do not share our racial identity.

Becoming antiracist requires that we actively create the world we want. It is a journey. Fortunately, the world is small – we can begin with the change that is possible in our own lives.”

Meanwhile, Rev. William Barber of the North Carolina NAACP and Forward Together Movement, put it this way in a Sunday statement, as reported by Raleigh’s News & Observer:

“‘If you just pull down the statue but you do not pull down the statutes, the laws that support them, we still have issues.’ Barber said….

‘You can’t just renounce what happened in Charlottesville,” Barber said. “You’ve got to denounce what happened before Charlottesville that emboldened the people to go to Charlottesville….’

‘We can’t make the mistake that was made in South Carolina when the flag came down,’ Barber said. ‘But it only came down after nine lives were destroyed. It should have come down years before and never been up. People said the leadership in South Carolina did something brave. That was not brave. It came down after nine lives were murdered.’

Barber said gerrymandered legislative and congressional districts have allowed what he called ‘unjust laws’ to be passed. They’ve played into the white nationalist agenda, including restrictions on voting rights and attacks on healthcare. He called for barriers to voting to be reduced and for wider access to health care. Fighting back at the ballot box is something that must be done, he said.

‘If you’re going to march and fight for the statues to come down, let’s march to the voting booths,’ Barber said.

Most of Barber’s comments were directed at Republicans, including President Donald Trump, Tar Heel U.S. Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr and state Sen. Phil Berger, who leads the N.C. Senate. He also was critical of what he called complicit Democrats.

‘Today’s Democrats are not totally absolved,’ Barber said. ‘Many Democrats refuse to name and confront policy-driven racism. They’ll talk about it on the extremes but they won’t use the term racism. Instead, they want to frame every issue in economic terms. They say they’re trying to simply reach the middle class, the white working class, which is in and of itself racist.

‘We just can’t talk about racism when Charlottesville happens. If that’s the only time we talk about systemic racism, we’re not going to deal with this issue. All parties must face the political agenda of white nationalism and denounce it line by line.'”

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