Greensboro's African American Community Newspaper since 1967

An analysis: Negative views of Blacks by state Republicans on full display


Last week, the North Carolina political press was all abuzz over a revealing incident where during a state House floor debate over public funding for private school vouchers, Republican Rep. Jeff McNeely of Iredell County - the House deputy majority whip - interrupted Democrat Rep. Abraham Penn Jones of Wake County to ask if he were not “a minority” and an athlete, would he have been able to attend prestigious Harvard University, and then Harvard Law School.

Rep. Abraham Penn Jones
Rep. Jones, who is Black, in his 60’s, and an alum of Raleigh’s Enloe High School, is an accomplished attorney, veteran of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the N.C. Attorney General’s Office, a Wake County Commissioner, a former N.C. Administrative Law judge and a Wake Superior Court Judge for 17 years before being elected to the state House, suddenly and unexpectedly had to defend his stellar record of attending Harvard.

Rep. McNeeley, who is White, later apologized, after embarrassing himself, and the rest of his Republican colleagues.

“I worked hard to get where I am today,” Rep. Jones, who finished in the top 40 percent of his class at Harvard, said in a press release. “It is disappointing that another member of our chamber would imply that I have been successful simply because of the color of my skin, or because I am an athlete. I appreciate the member apologizing for these remarks.”

Rep. Jones wasn’t the only Black Democrat to feel the sting of White Republican scrutiny and bias last week.

During floor debate regarding the Republican 12-week abortion ban veto override, Cabarrus Democrat Rep. Diamond Stanton-Williams, a Black female, registered nurse and medical manager, was on the House floor, solemnly revealing how years ago, she had an abortion despite having been reared in the Christian church.

But according to WRAL television, Rep. Keith Kidwell, a White Republican from Beaufort County, was not moved by Stanton-Williams’ heartfelt story. He was heard joking with nearby staffers in the rear of the House chamber that she must have attended “the church of Satan.”

Stanton-Williams later replied, “talking about deeply personal decisions regarding policies that will affect millions of women in our state should not open the door for untrue and hurtful remarks. I take my religion beliefs seriously, and it is unfortunate for someone to question my faith - especially another member of this chamber - when it doesn’t align with his.”

Rep. Jeff McNeely
Readers may recall that Rep. Kidwell is the Republican lawmaker we reported tried to sneak a conservative anti-Black social studies curriculum that criticizes the civil rights movement into a local bill for Beaufort County Public Schools before being forced to withdraw it.

The editorials across the state about these two revealing Republican attitudes were merciless.

“ said was perfectly emblematic of a GOP mindset that is dragging the Tar Heel state back to the 1950s,” blasted opinion writer Issac Bailey for McClatchy Newspapers.

“It was a moment of unintended candor that provided clear insight into what too many of those who occupy seats in the North Carolina General Assembly believe but rarely state so directly,” stated the Capital Broadcasting Company editorial.

“As they amass even more power and influence, Republicans are feeling emboldened enough to say the quiet parts out loud, wrote The News and Observer editorial. “…[T]oo many Republicans are emboldened to just say what they think, because that’s been modeled for them by other officials and cheered by voters. After all, in North Carolina, this is the party whose lieutenant governor says reprehensible things about women, the LGBTQ+ community and others….”

That official, Black Republican Mark Robinson, the leading GOP candidate for governor, has no doubt gained more White conservative followers after it was recently revealed by CNN that he criticized the 1960s civil rights movement on a March 2018 podcast.

“Prior to his political career, Robinson frequently referred to the civil rights era as the “so-called civil rights movement” and criticized the Greensboro lunch counter protests as a “ridiculous premise” designed to pull “the rug out from underneath capitalism and free choice and the free market,” reported CNN.

Also last week, came word that one of two Black Democrats on the N.C. Supreme Court, Associate Justice Michael Morgan, had had enough, and had decided not to run for re-election in 2024.

Justice Morgan has grown frustrated with the direction of the state’s High Court by the Republican majority, which has taken the extraordinary and rare measure of reversing prior rulings against voter ID and redistricting.

“Apparently, in their view, the law is whatever they say it is,” Morgan opined in a blistering dissenting opinion.

“Instead of doing the legally correct thing, the majority opinion picks its preferred destination and reshapes the law to get there.”

None of these incidents are accidents, but rather the most recent examples of the disdain and hostility Republicans in North Carolina, and across the country, demonstrably have for African Americans who are not followers of their cult of political personality. Indeed, the GOP has declared war on being “woke,” or being aware of historic injustices to Blacks and other people of color.

Just a brief check of the headlines from across the country shows that for whatever the reason, Republicans just can’t seem to stay away from anti-Black sentiments.

The NAACP issued a travel advisory for African Americans to stay away from Florida due to gov. Ron DeSantis’ apparent hostility towards them.

In Congress, Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) made jaws drop when asked during a radio interview if White nationalists should be allowed to join the military.

“I call them Americans,” he replied.

Fiery Republican Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene blew up headlines when she told reporters that being called a White supremacist was the same as “a Black person being called the n-word.”

Ironically, on May 13th during his commencement address at HBCU Howard University, President Joe Biden made clear what America’s greatest terror threat is - White supremacy.

“I don’t have to tell you that progress towards justice often meets ferocious pushback from the oldest and most sinister of forces,” Biden told the Howard graduating class. “That’s because hate never goes away.”

Historians are quick to note that up until the 1960s, the Republican Party was the political home of African Americans, having been formed to oppose slavery, while the Democratic Party was the domain of Southern “Dixiecrats” and White supremacists.

But that changed when Democratic Senator John F. Kennedy helped get civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. released from a Georgia jail. King did not endorse Sen. Kennedy for president, but he did spread word of Kennedy’s support.

What is striking about that historic incident is that despite Black voters’ loyalty to the Republican Party then, neither Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower or Vice President Richard Nixon ever lifted a finger to help Dr. King, or the cause of civil rights. Black voters got the message and made the switch.

By the late 1960’s, Republican Richard Nixon won the presidency being anti-civil rights, milking the White voter backlash to the movement, and in the 1980’s, Ronald Reagan won the presidency courting White supremacists in the Deep South. and George H.W. Bush used a Black criminal named “Willie Horton” to scare White people enough to win the White House. By that time, Black voters embraced the clear message that it was Democrats, not their former party, which was on the side of civil rights.

That model has remained the same since the days of Pres. Kennedy. In light of the continued and inexplicable popularity of Donald Trump, the growing popularity of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and the hard right direction of the Republican Party as a whole, the question now is how much further can the GOP go being hostile to the interests of the African American community?