/ race

Experts to discuss reparations for slavery in UNC event

Reparations to Black Americans for slavery is one of the nation’s oldest and fiercest political debates. Next week, expert scholars will debate the issue as part of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Program for Public Discourse.

The December 8 event, part of the program’s Debating Public Policy Series, will bring together Dr. William Darity, professor of Public Policy at Duke University, and Dr. Randall Kennedy, law professor at Harvard University for an online discussion moderated by Dr. Osamudia James, professor at UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Law. Registration for the 3 p.m. event, to be held over Zoom, can be found here.

“How can the United States try to make amends for its original sin?” the UNC program asked in a statement announcing next week’s event. “What is owed to the ancestors of slaves and the inheritors of structural inequality? Which policies might best serve those endeavors?”

Duke University’s Dr. William Darity, UNC Law Professor Osamudia James and Harvard University’s Randall Kennedy will discuss reparations in an online event through UNC-Chapel Hill’s Program for Public Discourse on Dec. 8.

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FBI confirms a single juvenile suspect behind most bomb threats to dozens of HBCUs

Racism, reproductive rights and inflation top concerns for voters of color heading into ’22 midterm

Concerns about the growing hostility toward communities of color has risen dramatically in the wake of the killings George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and the killing of six Asian American women in Georgia. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Leaders from six national racial justice organizations presented polling data they’ve conducted that shows widespread concern about racism, reproductive rights and eroding economic stability, while also suggesting that voters are increasingly concerned that leaders from both political parties are becoming more out of touch with the realities they face.

The data presented by the Advancement Project, the NAACP, UnidosUs, the National Congress of American Indians, Demos and the Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum, noted consistently high levels of engagement, especially among young voters, but also showed that several different issues are motivating multiracial voters which are different than the issues of two years ago in 2020.

For example, the topic of addressing racism and reproductive rights have become top priorities since the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and six Asian American women in Georgia. Also, both liberal and conservative voters shared a concern with reproductive rights and freedoms, including abortion.

Many leaders highlighted a constant concern about the economy, especially with the steep rise in inflation, leaving communities of color which were struggling economically before the COVID-19 pandemic in crisis because of the cost of food, housing and gasoline.

“We want to see our voices valued 24-7, 365 days a year, not just on Election Day and that means a continuous conversation,” said Taifa Butler of Demos, an organization that studies and advocates for racial equity in democracy. “The economic struggles have been broadly felt but not equally distributed.”

Her organization has found that in addition to the economic hardships of stagnant pay and rising costs, reproductive justice has been added to women’s fight.

“Americans are increasingly frustrated to see that their opinions are in one direction and Congress is moving in another,” said Clarissa Martinez, Vice President at UnidosUS Latino Vote Initiative.

Saving Native culture

Larry Wright Jr., the executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, said that voters in Indian Country are concerned about several cases at the U.S. Supreme Court, one which has been decided, the other which is currently under review.

A recent Supreme Court ruling, Oklahoma vs. Castro-Huerta, changed the way that states can prosecute crimes on reservation lands.

“The Supreme Court has discounted 250 years of history and allowed the state criminal justice system to encroach upon our tribal sovereignty,” Wright said.

The other case will decide the fate of the Indian Child Welfare Act which seeks to keep families and tribal communities whole in cases of child neglect and abuse. A challenge to the act is asking the court to rule ICWA unconstitutional because some say it discriminates against white people.

“Our allies understand that our cultures cannot exist without our children,” Wright said.

Wright said these two cases have made national politics a motivator for Native American communities. He also said that tribal communities are concerned about the number of laws being proposed or passed to restrict voting.

While Native Americans are worried about the future, Wright said they’re also seeing the power of their voice. In seven states, the number of Indigenous votes were more than margins of difference, meaning that Native votes were a key difference in elections, he said.

“Native people’s voices had a role in swinging elections,” he said.

A slide from a presentation by the NAACP showing the most important issues for Black voters in the 2022 midterms (Courtesy NAACP and the Advancement Project).

Racism a motivator

Jamal Watkins, NAACP senior vice president of Strategy and Advancement, said that a combination of polling, focus groups and panels has revealed that concerns about racism topped the list for Black voters. However, all panelists said concerns about the growing hostility toward communities of color has risen dramatically in the past two years.

Watkins said that polling, coupled with voter registration information, reveals that African Americans can play a key role in determining the outcome of high-profile races if they turn out at the polls. He highlighted the organization’s efforts in Georgia, North Carolina and Michigan as places where African-American voters can play an outsized role.

“Black voters are often taken for granted,” Watkins said. “If 3% percent of Black men in Georgia vote in a certain way, Herschel Walker is the next senator from Georgia.” Read more

Cooper to extend Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice

Gov. Roy Cooper speaks to the Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice on Zoom on Oct. 7, 2022.

Gov. Roy Cooper announced Friday morning that he would sign an executive order next month extending the work of the Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice.

The group has spent the past two and a half years trying to make the criminal legal system more just and equitable. They produced a report at the end of 2020 with a long list of recommendations for legislators to craft into law.

A few of the suggestions became a reality. Lawmakers passed bills raising the minimum age of juvenile jurisdiction from age six to 10, prohibiting the use of restraints on pregnant incarcerated women who are in their second and third trimester, and requiring police to intervene when one of their colleagues uses excessive force.

“The bottom line is to reduce crime and keep our communities safe while making sure our system operates fairly and without prejudice,” Cooper told the task force members. “It’s obvious that your work is making significant progress toward those goals. But it’s also very obvious that we are not yet where we need to be.”

Both Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein pointed to racist comments made by Columbus County Sheriff Jody Greene in a phone call in 2019 as evidence of the issues still facing North Carolina’s justice system.

“At our core the work has been to further the restoration of trust between law enforcement snd the communities that they serve,” said Stein. “Just recently we’ve seen how devastating it can be when a single sheriff, through his despicable words, shatters people’s confidence that law enforcement will apply the law impartially and without bias. So, the work of TREC remains relevant and urgent.”

Friday’s meeting was set to be the task force’s last.

“Your work has been too important to let this process end, especially when there’s more work to do,” Cooper said, laying out his plans to sign an executive order next month to extend the task force’s work into 2024.

The task force’s next phase of its work will focus on four areas: violence prevention including youth crime reduction and restorative justice; local law enforcement practices and accountability; judicial system policies and practices that result in equitable outcomes; and collection, analysis and dissemination of criminal justice system data.

Before the governor spoke. Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls noted that the task force could look at the Administrative Office of the Court’s decision to charge for criminal justice docket data that used to be free.

Cooper also mentioned President Joe Biden’s decision to pardon thousands who were convicted of simple marijuana possession under federal law. The governor credited the task force for being ahead of the curve, recommending in its report that possession of a small amount of cannabis shouldn’t be a crime in North Carolina, a proposal he supports.

“Law enforcement and the criminal justice system are under-resourced right now, and they should be focused on stopping violent crime, drug trafficking and other threats to safe communities,” Cooper said. “We also know that a conviction of simple possession can mar people’s records for life, and maybe even prevent them from getting a job.”

The General Assembly didn’t heed the task force’s recommendations. Cooper said he asked his lawyers to look at state law regarding convictions for simple marijuana possession to assess whether there’s any action —like a pardon — he can take at the executive level.

“In the meantime, while we work to make sure our criminal justice system is fairer, we must be laser focused on stopping the true criminals, those who are committing violent crimes, and particularly gun violence in our communities,” said Cooper.

NC Sheriffs’ Association joins NAACP in reacting to Columbus County sheriff’s racist rants

Sheriff Jody Greene – Photo: Columbus County Sheriff’s office

In an instance of unusual allies, both the North Carolina NAACP and the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association issued statements yesterday responding negatively to the racist rants of Columbus County sheriff, Jody Greene.

The statements were in response to to a Wednesday report by Wilmington’s WECT-TV that detailed several disturbing developments in what has been an ongoing saga involving Greene.

The report explains that Greene uttered multiple racist and hate-filled statements in the aftermath of a closely contested 2018 election in which his residency in the county — a requirement under state law — was questioned. Among other things, recorded statements made by Greene indicated that he intended to fire all Black members of his department because of his conclusion that they had been opposed to his candidacy and been supportive of his election opponent Lewis Hatcher, the former sheriff whom Greene had narrowly defeated in the election, and Melvin Campbell, a recently-fired sergeant. Both Hatcher and Campell are Black.

This is from the report:

“Tomorrow’s gonna be a new f**king day. I’m still the motherf**king sheriff, and I’ll go up and fire every godd**n [inaudible]. F**k them Black bastards. They think I’m scared? They’re stupid,” Greene said. “I don’t know what else to do it. So it’s just time to clean them out. There’s a snitch in there somewhere tellin’ what we are doing. And I’m not gonna have it. I’m not going to have it.”

In the recording, Greene can be heard saying he’s going to start firing people who are “guilty by f**king association” with Campbell and Hatcher.

“We’ll cut the snake’s head f**king off. Period. And Melvin Campbell is as big a snake as Lewis Hatcher ever dared to be. Every Black that I know, you need to fire him to start with, he’s a snake,” Greene says before ending the phone call.

In response to the report, the NAACP issued a formal call for Greene’s immediate resignation. Here’s an excerpt:

Sheriff Jody Greene must resign. His language is divisive, nasty, and offensive — his words are disparaging and hurtful to people of color. His actions have cast a cloud over his ability to execute the office with impartiality.

Columbus County, and in particular its Black residents, deserve better. We deserve accountability. To restore dignity and confidence in the office of the Columbus County Sheriff, we demand a thorough investigation of all activities conducted by this office since the beginning of Sheriff Greene’s tenure, by all relevant authorities — including the State Board of Investigation and the federal government.

Meanwhile, late yesterday, the Sheriffs’ Association issued a statement indicating Greene had resigned from the group in response to its stated intention to hold a hearing on possibly expelling from the organization:

Therefore, the Association’s Executive Committee (governing board) voted unanimously to hold a hearing to determine, pursuant to the Association’s Constitution and Bylaws, an “appropriate resolution for the matter,” up to and including expulsion of Sheriff Greene from membership in the Association.

The Executive Committee provided Sheriff Greene due notice of the hearing and the opportunity to be heard, likely to be held tomorrow, Friday, September 30 at a time selected by the Executive Committee.

Upon being notified this afternoon of the Executive Committee’s decision to schedule a hearing, Sheriff Greene resigned his membership in the Association to avoid causing any controversy for the Association

Policy Watch will continue to update this story as events warrant.

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