Editorial Roundup: North Carolina

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

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June 30

The Fayetteville Observer on the city’s decision to distance itself from a symbol with ties to slavery:

The same day artists began painting “Black lives do matter” and “End racism now” in the no-drive circle around the Market House, the Fayetteville City Council took steps to further distance the city from the historic building.

The council at a special meeting on June 29 voted to remove the image from anything affiliated with the city, including trash and recycling cans, the city flag and official documents. As we wrote recently, we support this move.

We continue to oppose calls by some to destroy the Market House, an idea that has attracted an online petition with 121,000 signatures. The building completed in 1832 is historically significant in local and state history.

But its decades-long status as the symbol for Fayetteville has come to an end. In reality this change happened years ago in the hearts and minds of many city residents. Especially for most of the city’s African-Americans, who say the Market House has never represented them. During the slavery era, it served as the city’s town hall and market place and was one of the sites where enslaved people were sold, typically as part of estate and debt settlements.

Various efforts to remove the Market House as the city symbol have been afoot for some time. In spring of 2016, the Fayetteville City Council voted to remove the city seal, which featured the Market House, from city correspondence and in marketing efforts. The Market House remained on the seal itself, and some official documents still included the seal.

Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin, who was the District 3 councilman at the time, said back then: “I would prefer to take it off everything.” But he supported what was then a compromise vote to avoid a council split, he said.

Now, at Colvin’s urging, the council’s current efforts go further. Council members on June 29 instructed city staff to come up with a timeline and cost estimate on replacing the seal on city property.

Councilman Johnny Dawkins said at the meeting he supports the move but the city should take a phased approach, adding that the cost to replace the green roll-cart cans that include the logo could be $3.6 million. Colvin agreed the city needed to take a thoughtful approach.

To be clear, cost is one consideration. A local government can never say money is no object. Unlike the federal government, the city must balance its budget.

But we expect the council will not allow cost by itself to stop this change from happening. It is about the community moving forward. It would be a poor way to do so by asking people to continue to rally around a city symbol too many find unacceptable.

Well-intentioned as the council members’ actions may be, they will find that divorcing the city from the Market House will not be easy. A recent TV broadcast illustrates why. On June 23, ABC aired “The Genetic Detective,” which featured an infamous Fayetteville crime case, the Ramsey Street Rapist. In the episode, the producers included a number of flattering scenes of the city. Images of the Market House, with its central location downtown, was a highly visible part of the opening that set the scene. For decades, TV newscasts have used images of the Market House for their short-hand, visual cue to represent Fayetteville.

It will take time and effort, and perhaps a new symbol altogether, to create a new narrative.

That is another area where we think community conversations about the Market House could play a role. Those conversations should be about repurposing or reframing the historic building, this time with a broad cross-section of the community seated at the table. But these conversations can also discuss how to recast the story of Fayetteville in the post-Market House era.

Online: https://www.fayobserver.com

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June 30

Winston-Salem Journal on a social media advertisement for a North Carolina race track that drew criticism:

The proprietor of a Stokes County dirt race track has had second thoughts about a “Bubba Rope” promotion he cheerfully posted recently in a tasteless and dramatically ill-timed ad on Facebook.

Mike Fulp, 55, owner of the half-mile red-clay oval, posted an ad promising Bubba ropes as part of a “Stand for America” promotion at 311 Speedway that would honor and reaffirm support for the Confederate flag.

The post followed the June 21 discovery of a noose in the garage of Bubba Wallace, the only black driver in stock car racing’s major league, the Cup Series. An FBI investigation ruled that the noose at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama had not targeted Wallace, who led the successful banning of Confederate flags at NASCAR races.

311, which bills itself as “the Daytona of Dirt,” immediately drew condemnation and lost sponsors and advertisers in the wake of the ad.

The Carolina Sprint Tour announced on Facebook that it no longer would hold events at 311.

Facebook commenters who said they were regular patrons of Fulp’s track also criticized the post.

The Governor’s Office called it “horrific and shameful.”

And even the Florida-based manufacturer of BubbaRope (there actually is such a thing) disavowed any connection to the promotion.

Now Fulp says he is sorry for it all and that he has only himself to blame. He says the promotion was both a very bad joke “that backfired” — and an unfortunate coincidence.

Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident. Fulp has posted blatantly racist posts on social media before, including a joke about the killing of George Floyd.

Among those who objected to Fulp’s ad was a group of about 25 members of “Justice for the Next Generation,” who arrived at 311 Speedway on June 27, led by the Rev. Greg Drumwright. They were met by speedway staff members touting AR 15-style rifles.

Still, they protested for about 90 minutes, holding signs that read, “Take Your Knee Offa Our Necks’’ and “Black Lives Matter.’’ And eventually, Fulp came out to talk to them.

“I made a mistake, and I’m sorry. I don’t want nobody hurt, man, I don’t want nobody hurt ...,’’ Fulp, while crying, told Drumwright.

“Let’s pray for you because you’re hurtin’,’’ Drumwright said. Fulp shook the hand of each protester and they all prayed together. All around, these were gracious gestures.

Drumwright later said many people are skeptical about Fulp’s apology, which he found convenient. “But as a minister, it is not my place to make judgment about people’s sincerity. When people ask for forgiveness ... their next step is to turn to the ways you are repenting from. So what we would be looking for from Mike extends beyond an apology. It goes into a real change.”

Fulp says he’s ended all of his activity on social media. He says he intends to cooperate with state regulations that limit crowd sizes at events to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

So maybe he has learned a painful lesson.

Maybe his encounter with the protesters at his track really did touch his heart.

We certainly hope so.

But much more certain is the overwhelming disapproval of the business community, the racing community and the general public — none of whom found anything funny in death and racism. (But not the threats against Fulp’s life; that’s going too far.)

As an overdue reckoning on race appears to happening in this country, Fulp recklessly pushed against the wall of common decency.

And the wall pushed back.

Online: https://www.journalnow.com

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June 26

The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer on the North Carolina Lt. Governor's plans to sue Gov. Roy Cooper:

Pity Dan Forest. North Carolina’s lieutenant governor is trailing incumbent Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper by double digits with Election Day just five page-turns away on the calendar. Despite frequent jabs from Republicans, the governor has strong favorability ratings, and nothing Forest does seems to move the needle.

He’s tried dabbling publicly in white nationalism, telling a church congregation that “(N)o other nation, my friends, has ever survived the diversity and multiculturalism that America faces today, because of a lack of assimilation, because of this division, and because of this identity politics.”

He’s tried the shock-and-awful route, claiming at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis that the governor lacked the authority to order bars to close and restaurants to shut down their dining rooms – and saying that such orders were a bad idea.

Inexplicably, Forest is still trailing.

And so this week, the lieutenant governor is making another reach for the headlines. In an email to the governor, Forest says that he wants to sue Cooper for issuing public health orders without the concurrence of the 10-member Council of State. Forest says that’s a violation of the Emergency Management Act, although Cooper and his office already have cited several statutes that allow the governor and Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen to mandate quarantines and closures.

Notably, no one else in the Council of State, which includes several Republicans, has joined or even rallied behind the lieutenant governor in his lawsuit. It’s a 60-yard Hail Mary with a 30-yard arm.

Make no mistake, Forest’s threat isn’t really about winning in court. It’s about his campaign trying to tap into a frustration in North Carolina that Cooper isn’t moving fast enough to help struggling businesses and workers by reopening the rest of the economy. That economic struggle is real, but so is the COVID-19 crisis, and to this point the governor largely has done a capable job of balancing the two.

And while some business owners remain frustrated with the pace of Cooper’s reopening, polls have consistently shown that North Carolinians support Cooper’s actions on COVID-19. Forest also might want to note a Siena/New York Times poll this week in which N.C. respondents said by a 54-37 margin that limiting the spread of the virus should take precedence over restarting the economy. That poll question dealt with the federal response, not the governor’s, but the message is and has been clear: North Carolina doesn’t want to rush into reopening at the expense of a COVID-19 surge.

If anything, Forest is doing everyone a favor with his political stunt. He’s reminding North Carolina that he was against the intent of Cooper’s initial COVID orders, which he said back in March “will devastate our economy.” If Forest were governor during this pandemic, we likely would have reopened too quickly – or perhaps not closed enough at the start. We could be Arizona right now, facing an alarming surge of cases after a too-quick reopening. We could be Texas, where the governor was forced to close bars and restrict restaurant capacity on June 26.

That’s not just a scary hypothetical. If Forest wins in November, he’ll be managing the inevitable second wave of the epidemic.

For now, he’s just a candidate, but he’s also a standard bearer for the state GOP, and he’s a lieutenant governor who is threatening to sue his boss. Not surprisingly, that’s grabbed some national headlines and cable news crawls, which not only is an embarrassment to Forest, but to his state. That’s not good for anyone in North Carolina, but Dan Forest wasn’t really thinking of anyone else this week. He was trying once again to say anything to bring himself and his foundering campaign some attention. It’s a wonder that hasn’t worked so far.

Online: https://www.newsobserver.com

Online: https://www.charlotteobserver.com