Elijah Cummings, a man of character and the best of Baltimore

OPINION — In the summertime, Baltimore can be hot as blazes with humidity to match. Trying to cool off in a public pool would be quite an ordinary outing for an 11-year-old boy. But for young Elijah Cummings in 1962, it turned into a nightmare in the still largely segregated city. White adults and children resisting integration yelled, “Go back to where you came from” — sound familiar? — to children and, over the heads of a police line, threw rocks and bottles, one of which caught young Elijah in the face.

That day taught Cummings he had rights, he later said, and it made him determined to become a lawyer despite teachers who dismissed his dream as impossible. With strong parents and supporters such as his boss at a drug store, who paid his college admission fee, Cummings fulfilled that dream and so much more.

The experience and the lesson he learned from it told you a lot about the boy who would become the man, a fighter for justice and a leader with a sense of right and wrong, even when there was a price to pay —lasting physical and emotional scars, reminders of work left to be done.

When celebrity luster gives cover to how America judges its own

OPINION — I am not one of those folks who see celebrities as larger-than-life icons to be worshipped and admired. Usually. But the recent deaths of Jessye Norman and Diahann Carroll hit me in the gut because those two amazing women were at once larger than life and so very real. The reactions to their accomplishments also illustrate an American or perhaps universal trait — the ability to compartmentalize, to place certain citizens of color or underrepresented citizens on a pedestal, at once a part of and apart from others of their race or gender or religion or orientation.

It allows negative judgment of entire groups to exist alongside denials of any racist or discriminatory intent. There are a lot of problems with that way of thinking. It places an unfair burden on the icons, a need to be less a human being than a flawless symbol. And it uses them as a rebuke to others who never managed to overcome society’s obstacles.

Most destructively, it allows behavior that punishes those not so talented, fortunate or lucky.

Charlotte Talks News Roundup: Clayton Wilcox In CMS Limbo; Trump Racist Tweet Stirs Anger

The revolving door of Charlotte-Mecklenbrg Schools superintendents appeared ready for another turn with the sudden suspension of Clayton Wilcox. President Trump, on the heels of his racist tweet, appeared in front of a North Carolina crowd that chanted “send her back,” which the president later tried to disavow.

David Boraks, reporter, WFAE (@davidboraks)

Danielle Chemtob, development reporter, The Charlotte Observer (@daniellechemtob)

Mary C. Curtis, columnist, Roll Call (@mcurtisnc3)

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

This election, black voters will not lie low and take one for the team

OPINION — Republicans often say that the Democratic Party takes black voters for granted. They are right.

Of course, the GOP then does nothing to appeal to those voters. In fact, with the actions and words of its leaders on everything from gerrymandered districts (see North Carolina) to fair-housing enforcement (or the lack of it), the Republican Party, which once claimed broad support as the party of Lincoln, takes deliberate action to repel them.

So, election after election, Democrats count on GOP radioactivity to drive African Americans to vote for the “D.” What choice do they have, after all?

Team Trump’s Harriet Tubman stumble was a missed opportunity for the GOP

OPINION — It would have been so easy, a way for the Trump administration to honor an American icon and reach out to some of those Americans who believe the Republican Party has no use for them. But did anyone honestly think any member of the team leading the country under the direction of Donald J. Trump was going to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill?

Instead Trump and company’s song-and-dance about why a plan put in place before they moved into the White House would be delayed until well after they leave just confirms that they care little for the wishes of Americans who probably did not vote for them, but who are Americans nonetheless, and that they have no knowledge of or interest in the history that has shaped this country.

The move to again force Tubman to the back was a clarion call to Trump’s base, a signal of who is important and who is not.

Can Bernie Sanders change his luck in the South?

OPINION — Bernie Sanders spent the weekend on a Southern swing, which makes sense. The Vermont senator’s failure to connect with enough core Democratic voters the last time around — in the South, that means black voters, and black women in particular — stalled his campaign for the party’s presidential nomination. He hit a wall in the early primary state of South Carolina, losing badly to Hillary Clinton, and he never recovered.

For serious primary voters, the parade of Democratic candidates is no joke

OPINION — CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The number of Democratic hopefuls declaring, thinking about declaring or being pushed to declare their interest in the 2020 race is increasing so rapidly, it has already become a reliable punchline. But for voters looking to discover the person who offers sensible policies on the issues they care about while exuding the intangible “it” quality that could beat Donald Trump, it is serious business.

Forget about what magic the letter “B” might hold — think Bernie, Biden, Beto, Booker, Buttigieg and I know I’m forgetting someone, oh yes, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet — these voters are digging deeper on the candidates who will crowd a debate stage in Miami two nights in a row in June.

When a hate crimes hearing goes very wrong, something’s not right in America

OPINION — When people are being threatened, intimidated and murdered, you would think that partisan bickering would take a back seat. But this is the U.S. Congress we’re talking about. Instead, what was supposed to be an examination of white nationalism and the rise of hate crimes on Tuesday devolved into what Americans have wearily begun to expect from their elected representatives. The House Judiciary Committee members inhabited different parties and different planets.

When what’s at stake is this serious, that’s pretty frightening.

When does partisan gerrymandering cross the line?

OPINION — “I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats,” said Rep. David Lewis, a Republican member of the North Carolina general assembly’s redistricting committee. “So, I drew this map to help foster what I think is better for the country.”

He added: “I propose that we draw the maps to give a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and three Democrats, because I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats.”

If that is not quite a smoking gun, it’s definitely toasty to the touch.

Will quotes like that — transparently revealing the politics behind a policy that favors one party — be enough for the Supreme Court to meddle in the political maneuvering of partisan gerrymandering? This week’s hearings take on a North Carolina case and its mirror in Maryland, where Democrats are accused of skewing a district.

How big and little lies, plus cash, prop up the ‘American dream’

OPINION — In the 1944 film “Gaslight,” a greedy Charles Boyer, trying to convince his rich, naive wife Ingrid Bergman that she is insane, dims and brightens the gaslights in their home, while insisting it is a figment of her imagination. Today, the term “gaslighting” has come to mean that same psychological manipulation.

America is being “gaslighted.”

How else could it maintain an unshaken belief in the “American dream,” that if you work long enough and hard enough, you can achieve anything? In order to believe in the triumph of a meritocracy, a country with an even playing field, you must ignore the lobbyists, PR specialists and boatloads of money that smooth out any rocky road for a select few. And your mind must obliterate every bit of this country’s history.