Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


CIVIL RIGHTS CENTER MISSION CENTRAL TO UNC'S BEST TRADITIONS: Frankly, while I’ve found our nation’s private sector has made great strides in civil rights, the same has not been true for the public sector, where many citizens – especially those with the fewest resources to advocate for their interests –suffer daily injustices at the hands of too many elected officials and government bureaucrats. This isn’t to suggest that most government workers aren’t dedicated to serving the public, but that all citizens have the right -- through fact-finding and the courts -- to determine if discriminatory practices exist within the very agencies we support with our tax dollars. It is certainly reasonable to review the work of the Center to assure it is in accord with N.C. State Bar requirements. However, it would be unwise to cease work that meets such a pressing need and provides important and positive contributions for all North Carolinians.

CAROL FOLT'S WEAK LEADERSHIP ON SILENT SAM CONFEDERATE STATUE: Chancellor Carol Folt had a chance for a defining moment here, an opportunity to take a stand that would have restored her reputation and that of her university after a long-running academic-athletics scandal. But Folt, rather than order the statue taken down as a recognition of a new day and a new era in Chapel Hill after other leaders around the United States have ordered the removal of such monuments to the Confederacy, did not do anything except put some fences around the statue temporarily and urge people not to demonstrate. This ranks as one of the most disappointing moments in her tenure, and she cannot put a spin on it that makes her look like anything other than a weak leader who is perhaps bending to pressure from conservative Republicans on her Board of Trustees and those on the UNC system Board of Governors. Doubtless the sentiments on those boards isn’t as strong in favor of removing this statue and other Confederate monuments as it is in the general public and in particular in the university community.

LAST-MINUTE GENX AMBUSH, STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE FOR LEGISLATURE: The legislature is doing the public’s business without including the public. This group of zealots continues to be an opaque den of conniving inside dealers. What is really happening? Who is really responsible? All that’s hidden from taxpayers. Debates over major legislation are held in secret caucuses. Major shifts in policy and spending seem to appear out of the blue, with little time for citizen input or open debate. The bizarre scheme to look into the GenX issue is the latest example in a long trail of snap solutions. If the current crop of legislative leaders truly had confidence in the ideologically driven legislation they’ve imposed, they’d willingly subject them to the sunlight of public hearings, open debate and accountability. Clearly they don’t – and they don't care about results. They are happy if it fits with the anti-tax, anti-public education, anti environment, anti-immigrant, anti-health care, anti-gay, anti-transgender, anti-abortion, anti-gun control anti-voting rights and anti- you-name-it, base of support they have nourished.

DAVID PRICE'S STUDIOUS REFLECTIONS, WORRIES: As he always has, Price, a professor, brought a studious and thoughtful eye to the issues of the day on a recent visit to the editorial offices of The News & Observer. These are, he acknowledges, hard times for Democrats, and Price is frustrated by talk of things like a tea party-led effort, comforted by the unpredictable and volatile President Donald Trump, to possibly refuse to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, a routine matter that enables the country to borrow money to pay its debts. Should an element of the GOP succeed in rejecting such a raise of the ceiling, the nation’s financial markets would be plunged into chaos and the world reaction would be unpredictable but certainly dangerous. On that issue, Price said he felt the ceiling would be raised but that the danger of not raising it should not be underestimated.

THE PEOPLE OF TEXAS NEED AMERICA'S HELP: The scenes from Houston and elsewhere along the Texas coastal plain are heart-rending. Those people, our fellow Americans, need help. Responders, ranging from neighbors with boats to emergency workers to cops to National Guard troops, are doing all they can. The unprecedented flooding unleashed by Hurricane Harvey is overwhelming them. Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city, regularly deals with high water when rain swells Buffalo Bayou, which flows through its heart. No one has seen it so high, and it continues to rise with more rain and strategic releases from dams intended to keep them from bursting. Police, desperate to save lives, appealed Sunday night for “anyone with a boat who can volunteer to help.” Like the makeshift fleet that evacuated British soldiers from Dunkirk in 1940, Houston’s amateur navy answered the call. Many stories of heroism are emerging from the swirling waters.


THERESA MOORE: CUTS TO ATTORNEY GENERAL STEIN'S OFFICE NEED EXPLANATION: As a North Carolina taxpayer, I pay for services and structures put in place by our state to provide protection, security, infrastucture, public education, environmental resource protection, consumer protection and legal assistance, among many other aspects of work for the public good. Now we learn that Republican leaders have willy-nilly slashed $10 million from our state attorney general office. I have not heard any logical reason or necessity for this irresponsible and seemingly partisan action. Taxpayers pay for these services, available to all in our state, not just certain groups, yet the GOP sees fit to deny budget money that will very likely diminish the quantity and quality of the work done for the public good in the AG office. Yet I’m expected to be A-OK with my tax dollars going to such things as the millions the GOP spent on private attorney fees fighting for such harmful issues as gerrymandered maps. Another sickening display of the GOP’s partisan power-grab-at-all-costs stranglehold on N.C. Can’t wait for the next election.

WILLIAM TOTH: THE REPUBLICAN PARTY HAS GONE OFF THE TRACK: I don’t recognize the current Republican Party. Dwight Eisenhower favored and promoted civil rights. Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency. Gerald ford pardoned Nixon, after Nixon resigned, to spare the country further trauma and begin our national healing. Along came Ronald Reagan, and things began to unravel. Government oversight was proclaimed as evil, unions were demonized, and we were stricken with the falsehood of “trickle-down” or, as G.H.W. Bush referred to them, “voodoo economics.” The middle class began to shrink. George W. Bush, with the able assistance of his brother, Jeb, and the Supreme Court, won the 2000 election and we then had the invasion of Iraq, by false pretense, and the rise of ISIS via the power vacuum that created; the massive tax cuts and banking deregulation; and, eventually, the economic meltdown of 2008. Now we have the national calamity of Donald Trump, who, according to the latest stats, 90 percent of Republicans still approve of. My parents, who endured the Depression, warned me about Republicans, saying they favored the rich and brought stagnation with their policies. Things always “dried up” under GOP stewardship, they told me. I didn’t always believe them. I do now.

JOE BURTON: NUCLEAR WEAPONS MUST BE ABOLISHED: Regarding “‘All options on table’ following N. Korea missile launch, Trump says” (Aug. 30): our President was repeating what we have heard many times in U.S. conflicts with other nations. Saying “all options are on the table” is an implied threat that the use of nuclear weapons is possible if our adversary does not do what we want. The conditions that would require a nuclear response are never spelled out. When U.S. presidents make that threat do they actually understand what use of a nuclear weapon would look like on the ground? The Union of Concerned Scientists provides the following description: A typical warhead with a yield of 600 million pounds of dynamite detonated above a city would incinerate or otherwise kill every person and living thing in a one-mile radius. People within 3 miles would be crushed by collapsing buildings or receive severe burns and be exposed to lethal doses of radiation. Devastation like the above is unthinkable, impossible to comprehend. Nuclear weapons must be abolished.



Another one from yours truly:


History is important, we are told. Honoring those brave souls from Alamance County who died in the Civil War 150 years ago remembers their sacrifice, we are told. But that memory is flawed, it is incomplete, and it leaves out one of the bravest men who ever set foot in Alamance County. That man was Wyatt Outlaw, and it’s long past time for not only our community, but our elected officials as well, to honor him and install a memorial so he can be remembered.

When Wyatt Outlaw escaped from his bonds of slavery, he didn’t seek a safe place to live out his days. He joined the Union Army and fought for not only his own continued freedom but the freedom of all those kept in bondage. He wasn’t an enemy of Alamance County, he was an ally for the one-third of the County’s population who were enslaved. Make no mistake, those African-Americans were not merely “workers” as an apparently confused local official recently claimed, they were personal property. Bought and sold, like cattle. And if we are to further believe this local official, that parcels of land were granted in appreciation for their service, where are these plots of land now? These gifts? Maybe you’ll have better luck finding them than I did.

But fighting in the war wasn’t the last act of bravery for Wyatt Outlaw. In a move that he had to know would put his life in serious jeopardy, he came back home. Because he knew the real work was just getting started. The hard work, the virtually impossible work: To somehow figure out how freed slaves and their former masters could live together, rebuild their community side by side, and not at the business end of a horsewhip.

Can you imagine? Can anybody reading this say, with a straight face, they would return to the place they had been kept in shackles, had been forced to toil in the fields from sunup to sundown, snatching a few hours of sleep because the new dawn would bring only more of the same? I can’t say it. I would have moved as far away from that place as I could get, and then hopped on a boat to get even farther away. But he didn’t. Wyatt Outlaw came back, and that cost him something slavery and even a bloody war didn’t take away —his life.

When the Ku Klux Klan first rode into Graham, Wyatt Outlaw didn’t run and hide. He was a constable, a cop if you will, and he was a town commissioner. The first African-American to hold that position, which is just one more reason a monument is desperately needed to remember him by. No, when you’re a cop, you don’t run and hide when masked bandits ride through your town, you do your job. You do what law-abiding citizens are counting on you to do, you face those bandits. And sometimes that’s the last thing you will ever do for those citizens.

A year later, under the cover of darkness, those hooded cowards broke into Wyatt Outlaw’s house, dragged him away from his young son, and lynched him from a tree not far from where that Confederate Monument now stands in Graham’s Court Square.

From slave to soldier and then public servant, Wyatt Outlaw embodied those things we admire in other historical figures, and I for one am proud to live in the same county that he valued so much. History is important. Honoring those who gave their lives in the service of our community is important. And we owe it to ourselves and our children to remember Wyatt Outlaw in a proper fashion, with a monument that tells his tale.

Steve Harrison is the senior administrator for the progressive website BlueNC.