Local News Roundup: School Districts Buck CDC Mask Guidance; Charlotte Unveils Nondiscrimination Ordinance

It was only a few weeks ago that North Carolina’s rate for positive COVID-19 tests was below 2%. But the spread of the delta variant sent the positivity rate above 10% this week — the first time since February it crossed that threshold.

Gov. Roy Cooper and others said the worsening metrics were the result of COVID-19 spreading among those who have not been vaccinated.

“This virus is now much more contagious and spreading fast, and it’ll find you if you’re unvaccinated,” Cooper said Thursday.

Join our roundtable of reporters for more on those and other stories from the week’s news.

GUESTS

Mary C. Curtis, Roll Call columnist and host of the Equal Time podcast (@mcurtisnc3)

Claire Donnelly, WFAE health care reporter (@donnellyclairee)

Hunter Saenz, WCNC local government reporter (@Hunt_Saenz)

Erik Spanberg, Charlotte Business Journal managing editor (@CBJspanberg)

‘This is about whether or not we will have a democracy or an autocracy,’ Clyburn says on voting rights

Voter nullification, authoritarianism and the end of democracy — that’s what Rep. James E. Clyburn says are the very real consequences of not passing legislation to protect voting rights. The South Carolina Democrat emphasized that voter suppression is not just an issue of access to the ballot box, but includes who gets to overturn elections.

“I want you to call it what it is. Use the word. Nullification,” said Clyburn“It is voter nullification.”

There are currently two bills on the issue, the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, before Congress. Senate Democrats are meeting to hash out a revised bill that could be released next week.

Mary C. Curtis sits down with the House majority whip to discuss voting rights, and to understand what are the very high stakes and what can be done with dwindling time on the clock.

‘Covering Politics in the Age of Trump’

If you missed it! A live remote reading and Q&A with editor Jerry Ceppos and contributors Mark Leibovich of The New York Times, Mary C. Curtis of CQ Roll Call, and Major Garrett of CBS, about our contributions to the new LSU Press book, “Covering Politics in the Age of Trump.”
 

‘The flag would still be flying today’

Six years ago, Malcolm Graham lost his big sister, Cynthia Graham Hurd, in the Charleston shooting that took nine Black churchgoers’ lives. Now a city councilman in Charlotte, N.C., Graham reflects on the work he did to remove the Confederate flag from its prominent place on the South Carolina statehouse grounds, the future of racial matters in our country and his sister’s legacy.

For GOP, ‘back the blue’ doesn’t matter when there’s an election to be won

It was both politically smart, and the right thing to do.

By opening the hearing of the House select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol with the testimony of police officers on the front line, still suffering from the effects of the violence of that day, the world got to hear what really happened and to see the human cost.

Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell compared it with his Army service, “different” because the Jan. 6 attackers were “our own citizens.” He described warning his worried wife away when she tried to hug him on his return home because his uniform was drenched with chemical spray. D.C. Metropolitan Police Department Officer Daniel Hodges said white rioters tried to recruit him as one of their own: “Are you my brother?” one asked. Another told Hodges he would “die on your knees.” MPD Officer Michael Fanone thought he would be killed and almost was, before his plea that he had kids moved a few.

Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, who is African American, is still in therapy after being booed and showered with obscenities and racial slurs. “Frankly, I guess it is America,” he said.

Black Businesses & COVID

U.S. Black Chambers, Inc. President/CEO Ron Busby discusses what’s needed to support black-owned businesses as the COVID delta variant raises concerns anew. Panelists Mary C. Curtis, Leonardo Williams, and Dr. DeLon Canterbury explore the potential economic repercussions of the COVID delta variant’s spread and effect of messaging on vaccination rate and hesitancy.

Black women — now and then — lead a recalcitrant America toward justice

Though words are my primary business, I never underestimate the power of images, especially when they so clearly represent different chapters of the same old story — one that’s frustrating, exhilarating and powerful.

What was Gloria Richardson thinking, as she seems to casually push aside the bayonet-tipped firearm wielded by a National Guardsman attempting to control civil rights demonstrators in Cambridge in my home state of Maryland in 1963? Maybe the same ideas she expressed to The Washington Post last year in the wake of protests after the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police office: “Racism is ingrained in this country. This goes on and on,” she said. “We marched until the governor called martial law. That’s when you get their attention. Otherwise, you’re going to keep protesting the same things another 100 years from now.”

Richardson may not have been as well known as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or Rep. John Lewis, but she was “born a leader,” as her granddaughter told The Associated Press. Richardson was right there on the stage at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, though her speech was cut short after her first “hello,” perhaps for fear of what she would say next. “Before I could say another word, an NAACP official took the mic away,” Richardson once recalled.

The icon of the movement, who was a 40-year-old mother of two when she initiated and led a SNCC affiliate, the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee, died recently at the age of 99.

In photos taken just last week, Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, can be seen unapologetically carrying on the spirit of Richardson, marching to maintain hard-earned voting rights now threatened by a rash of voting restrictions across the nation. Two bills to strengthen voting rights, heirs to the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965 that the U.S. Supreme Court seems intent on dismantling, are hitting roadblocks in Congress, from Republicans using the filibuster and Democrats hesitant to meddle with it.

But Beatty and the women and men who protested on July 15 no doubt remember that Richardson and activists faced legal obstacles as well as death threats and countered it all with more activism.

The education gap

Slavery, Jim Crow laws and COVID-19 all have contributed to a yawning gap between white public school students and students of color. While the 1950s Supreme Court decision known as Brown v. Board of Education was supposed to correct “separate but equal,” there is still a long way to go before public schools can talk about equity. Mary C. Curtis talks with Terra Wallin of the Education Trust to understand how we arrived at this moment and how the nation’s public schools can do better.

Statues come down, while barriers to truth are erected

In Charlottesville, Va., where a Unite the Right gathering of neo-Nazis, white supremacists, Lost Cause devotees and other angry history deniers left destruction and death in their path in 2017, there was a different scene this past weekend.

The city removed statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, memorials to those who fought on the losing side of a Civil War to maintain the brutal and murderous institution of slavery. They were erected as monuments to white supremacy, not in the 1860s but the 1920s, a Jim Crow threat to Black citizens to “know their place.”

Now, as then, there are those opposed to this bit of progress, with arguments that removing the stone idols would mean erasing history, which is ridiculous since that history will never disappear from books, museums and tall tales handed down by the “never forget” brigade.

Ironically, many of these same folks would be only too glad to forget what really happened, during that bloody Civil War and in the 100 years after — the ingenious laws and policies that continue to reverberate through everything from health care to housing.

Trump’s gifts to journalists of color

By Jerry Ceppos

When I asked 24 top Washington journalists to write about their experiences covering the Trump Administration, I knew that I’d get some surprises.

For example, McKay Coppins of The Atlantic wrote about the terror campaign that Trump unleashed after disliking a story: “The sheer volume of the smear campaign was impressive. Scrolling down Breitbart’s home page yielded seven different stories related to my betrayal of ‘Mr. Trump.’’’

Mark Leibovich of The New York Times remembered President Trump hounding him for a profile in the Times Magazine. After it appeared, Trump told him, “You treated me very badly.”

Quint Forgey, a young reporter at POLITICO, asked, “Was it always like this?”

But the essays that bothered me most were from journalists of color.