An examination of replacement theory in America

The racist shooting in Buffalo, New York, over the weekend left 10 people dead and injured three others. Law enforcement is investigating the shooting as a hate crime.

It is the latest in a list of similar acts of violence: Charleston, South Carolina, Charlottesville, Virginia, Pittsburgh, El Paso, Texas and Atlanta to name a few. All have an element of fear of the other. This is part of the basis of the “great replacement theory.”

The great replacement theory began as a white nationalist movement last century in Europe, according to the anti-defamation league. It has grown into the fear, especially in America, that white Christians will be replaced by nonwhite, non Christian people and immigrants.

This refrain has become more mainstream in recent years. In Charlottesville, the mob chanted “Jews will not replace us,” while the El Paso shooter said he was fighting against what he called a Hispanic invasion.

Increasingly, GOP leaders and commentators have championed this dialogue. They have complained about how race is taught in schools and pushed back on efforts to expand voting rights. U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, the third-highest ranking Republican in the House, used ads that echoed part of the replacement theory.

GUESTS:

James E. Ford, executive director at the Center for Racial Equity in Education

Mary C. Curtis, columnist for Rollcall.com, host of the Rollcall podcast “Equal Time”

Shannon Reid, associate professor at UNC Charlotte specializing in white supremacy

When did admitting mistakes become weakness for Republicans?

In 2002, Trent Lott of Mississippi tried, awkwardly, to make amends.

What did the then-Senate majority leader do to merit penance? Waxing poetic and perhaps feeling a bit nostalgic, Lott gave a speech honoring the 100th birthday of fellow Republican Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, the onetime Dixiecrat who once broke off from the Democratic Party with a group of the like-minded to form the States’ Rights Democratic Party, built on segregation and steeped in white supremacy.

“I want to say this about my state,” said Lott, harking back to Thurmond’s 1948 folly. “When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years, either.”

First, Lott backtracked by saying he did not mean what he clearly said, calling the celebration “lighthearted.” Next, the apology, “to anyone who was offended.”  “A poor choice of words conveyed to some that I embraced the discarded policies of the past,” he said in a statement. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

He resigned as majority leader after receiving criticism mostly from Democrats but also from some Republicans, worried they might lose support of Black conservative voters for whom whistling Dixie was a step too far.

I’m not sure if Lott’s motive was genuine moral growth or reading the room. But at the very least, it acknowledged that longing for the bad old days was not a good thing.

For reasons exemplary or political or both, anything that name-checked the divisive and ugly politics of Dixiecrat days of glory was seen as a drag for a politician and his or her party. This was true even when the words honored Thurmond, a longtime senator, one whose hypocrisy moved front and center when his Black daughter, Essie Mae Washington-Williams, in 2003 claimed her truth and her birthright.

Was 2002 really that long ago? In political years, apparently, yes.

Black women are Americans, and representation raises the bar — legal and otherwise

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was shocked and, indeed, insulted that anyone would ascribe even a hint of racist intent to his recent statement that divided the electorate into African Americans and Americans: “If you look at the statistics, African American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans.”

On the one hand, that outrage was pretty rich coming from the man who treated the first Black president of the United States as an annoyance to be dismissed or ignored, especially when that president attempted to appoint a Supreme Court justice, one of the duties of — the president of the United States.

On the other hand, the Republican senator from Kentucky was just doing what a whole lot of Americans do: Treat “white” as the default and everyone else as someone or something “other,” and, by statement or inference, someone or something “less.”

Of course, McConnell being McConnell, he “misspoke” while explaining his stand against the shrinking voting rights of Americans who only began to fully share in the franchise after a law passed by Congress in 1965 — one that came only after fierce debate and the bloody sacrifice of civil rights workers.

It’s Black History Month, Senate minority leader. Read a book, watch “Eyes on the Prize,” examine your own party’s Southern strategy. And do it before bills that would ban teachers from talking about race in a way that could make anyone uncomfortable make their way through the legislature in your home state of Kentucky.

It could be any month, though, as the pending appointment of the next Supreme Court justice by President Joe Biden has ushered in yet another round of “Let’s pretend that all those white, male judges were perfect and perfectly qualified and these Black women on the short list with long résumés and years of experience could never measure up.”

Only white men on the Supreme Court, well, that was the way it was. If merit and good character were criteria, Black women — and representatives of Americans of every race and gender and creed whose fate has been decided by the highest court in the land — would have been appointed to the court long ago. But in those days, years, decades and centuries, the “white” was silent, and understood.

Local News Roundup: 2022 primary delayed, CMS and county meet, pedestrian bridge planned

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board called an emergency meeting to discuss retention bonuses for employees this week in the hopes that it will help in the effort to keep area schools staffed. The bonuses could be up to $2,500 for full-time staff and up to $1,250 for part-time staff.

CMS board members had a joint meeting with the Mecklenburg County Commission this week, where some members on each side showed a willingness to work together better after contentious relations in the past. And some were not so willing. We’ll about what happened at the meeting.

North Carolina’s top court delayed the March 2022 primary due to remapping lawsuits.

Mecklenburg County has approved $38.5 million in incentives for Atrium Health’s planned “innovation district” in Dilworth. That’s after Charlotte City Council approved $36 million in incentives for that project in November. We’ll talk about the 6-2 vote and the discussion about the importance of the project.

And a new connection between uptown Charlotte and South End that will help make the city more walkable is in the works. A pedestrian bridge over Interstate 277 will solve a major connectivity problem in the city, but the project will take much longer than previously thought.

Guests:

Mary C. Curtis, columnist for rollcall.com, host of the Rollcall podcast “Equal Time”

Katie Peralta Soloff, reporter for Axios Charlotte

Joe Bruno, WSOC-TV reporter

Ann Doss Helms, WFAE education reporter

Careless adults take note: ‘Children will listen … children will see’

Careful the things you say

Children will listen

Careful the things you do

Children will see

And learn.”

At his death late last month at the age of 91, composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim was praised for writing for character rather than the hit parade. Playwright Arthur Laurents, who worked with him on several productions, once said that Sondheim “writes a lyric that could only be sung by the character for which it was designed.”

However, the audience for his work is everyone.

At this moment, the words of “Children Will Listen” from “Into the Woods” sadly resonate in a country where children are learning the wrong lessons from adults who should know better.

In Michigan, family, friends and classmates are mourning Madisyn Baldwin, Tate Myre, Hana St. Juliana and Justin Shilling, killed in an attack in a place that should be safe — high school. A 15-year-old was charged in the murders at Oxford High School, and in a rarity, his parents were charged with involuntary manslaughter for what prosecutors said was behavior that made them complicit.

Guide them along the way

Children will glisten

Children will look to you

For which way to turn.”

Wanted this holiday season: More wise men and women on the Hill

Any true connoisseur of “A Christmas Carol” would rank Alistair Sim’s 1951 star turn at the top of the list. It’s impossible to resist sharing the sheer joy of his Ebenezer Scrooge, waking up to discover he’s been given a second chance to become a human being, one who can make the world a better place with generosity and kindness. And he gets something out of the deal, as well.

Cue the happy ending and lessons learned.

For this holiday season, a remake is in order, with Scrooge a sucker for falling for Bob Cratchit’s tale of woe. A raise? Times are tough, or haven’t you heard how many people would love to have that clerk job. The greedy Jacob Marley may not be loved, but he sure would be admired, perhaps even praised, for accumulating as much wealth as possible in this life, with little regard for his soul in the next.

And what’s that hiding under the cloak of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come? Not Ignorance and Want, which come with a warning of harm if these societal ills are ignored. But instead, sacks filled with fraudulent mail-in ballots from Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The point of so many holiday tales, when you think of it, hinges on transformation — that moment when the protagonist opens his or her heart. Think of the Grinch, whose actual heart seems to grow three sizes when he hears the gift-less residents of Whoville raising their voices in glorious song.

The demeaning of ‘woke’ — or when attention to injustice becomes too much

Endesha Ida Mae Holland smiled as she recounted the events of the Mississippi voter registration movement for the 1994 documentary “Freedom on My Mind.” That movement, from 1961 to 1964, was marked by the bravery of activists and the violence meted out by those who felt threatened by the very idea of Black citizens exercising their fundamental rights.

Holland’s upbringing as a young African American in Mississippi, her work in the struggle and the retaliation that followed had left her unprepared for her first encounter at a Southern lunch counter following the passage of civil rights laws she fought so hard for. She said that when the clerk politely greeted her, it was so overwhelming and appreciated, she ordered everything on the menu, just to experience the balm of kind words covering her again and again.

At the close of Freedom Summer — only a few years after a Black farmer who tried to register to vote was shot and killed by a Mississippi state representative, who got away with it — respect seemed a triumph to someone whose humanity had been denied for so long.

Remember the phrase “political correctness”? It’s not so in vogue these days, mostly because it has outlived its usefulness.

I remember when it was all the rage, an effort to reframe any rude and insensitive lout as a bold rule-breaker. My feelings about all the fuss? Despite protests to the contrary, there was never a prohibition against making rude remarks, no law that punished anyone who chucked racist or misogynistic or homophobic comments toward acquaintances or perfect strangers or who viewed the world through a lens of hardened stereotypes.

‘What has come of America?’

Civil rights leader and National Urban League president and CEO Marc Morial says he is “damn worried” about the state of American democracy. Mary C. Curtis sits down with Morial to talk about voting rights, infrastructure, the filibuster and so much more.

Virginia Elections Recap

If you’ve never seen a political pummeling on election day before… you now know what one looks like.  All you have to do is turn to Virginia’s election results.  Republicans ran the board from the governor’s race all the way to the house and have the political clout to do pretty much what they want once they take office.  What happened and why?

The dangers of a short memory in recognizing — and fighting — hate

June 17, 2015.

Though it wasn’t that long ago, far too many Americans only dimly recall what happened on that date, when a racist murderer sat down to pray with parishioners at the historically Black Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., then pulled out a .45-caliber handgun and started shooting. He killed nine people who had welcomed him and did it without — not then nor in the years since — a shred of remorse.

Maybe some have had memories tweaked with the recent news that the Justice Department has agreed to pay the victims’ families and the survivors $88 million to compensate for a background check failure.

But those families needed no reminder and would give anything to have their loved ones back on this earth.

The Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Graham Hurd, the Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, the Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor, the Rev. Daniel Simmons, Myra Thompson — they were caring community leaders and so much more than names scrolling across the bottom of a TV screen, as Hurd’s younger brother Malcolm Graham said in a 2015 Washington Post column about his sister.

She was a librarian, who surely would have helped high school dropout Dylann Roof with his educational challenges. Instead, the white supremacist, schooled by online bile, turned to violence toward African Americans. That I mention Hurd is no coincidence. I did not know her well, but we had met. And I do know her brother Malcolm, a former North Carolina state senator and current Charlotte city council member, who established the Cynthia Graham Hurd Foundation for Reading and Civic Engagement to continue her work and legacy.

Does it take a connection for Americans to feel?