CB Bowman: Courage to Leap and Lead (Part 2)

This is part one of a two-part episode. Tune in next week for part 2 with the wonderful Mary C. Curtis.

Mary C. Curtis, a columnist at Roll Call, is an award-winning journalist and educator based in Charlotte, N.C., and Washington, D.C. She has contributed to NBC News, NPR, The Washington Post, The Root, ESPN’s The Undefeated, and talks politics on WCCB-TV and NPR-affiliate WFAE in Charlotte. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, the Charlotte Observer, the Baltimore Sun, and the Associated Press, and was a national correspondent for AOL’s Politics Daily.

Curtis is a Senior Leader with The OpEd Project, at Yale University, Cornell University, and the Ford Foundation, and at the Aspen New Voices Fellowship in Johannesburg, South Africa. She was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and a Kiplinger Fellow, in social media, at Ohio State.

Mary was chosen to be included in The HistoryMakers, the single largest archival collection of its kind in the world designed to promote and celebrate the successes and to document movements, events, and organizations that are important to the African American community and to American society; it is available digitally and permanently archived in the Library of Congress.

Her honors include Clarion Awards from the Association for Women in Communications, awards from the National Headliners and the Society of Professional Journalists, three first-place awards from the National Association of Black Journalists, and the Thomas Wolfe Award for an examination of Confederate heritage groups. Curtis has contributed to several books, including an essay in “Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox.”

CB Bowman: Courage to Leap and Lead

This is part one of a two-part episode. Tune in next week for part 2 with the wonderful Mary C. Curtis.

Mary C. Curtis, a columnist at Roll Call, is an award-winning journalist and educator based in Charlotte, N.C., and Washington, D.C. She has contributed to NBC News, NPR, The Washington Post, The Root, ESPN’s The Undefeated, and talks politics on WCCB-TV and NPR-affiliate WFAE in Charlotte. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, the Charlotte Observer, the Baltimore Sun, and the Associated Press, and was a national correspondent for AOL’s Politics Daily.

Curtis is a Senior Leader with The OpEd Project, at Yale University, Cornell University, and the Ford Foundation, and at the Aspen New Voices Fellowship in Johannesburg, South Africa. She was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and a Kiplinger Fellow, in social media, at Ohio State.

Mary was chosen to be included in The HistoryMakers, the single largest archival collection of its kind in the world designed to promote and celebrate the successes and to document movements, events, and organizations that are important to the African American community and to American society; it is available digitally and permanently archived in the Library of Congress.

Her honors include Clarion Awards from the Association for Women in Communications, awards from the National Headliners and the Society of Professional Journalists, three first-place awards from the National Association of Black Journalists, and the Thomas Wolfe Award for an examination of Confederate heritage groups. Curtis has contributed to several books, including an essay in “Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox.”

Two systems of justice? Bet on it

You can be sure the FBI and the Department of Justice dotted every “i” and crossed every “t” on the search warrant before they went looking for classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, the home of the former president of the United States, and hit the jackpot. Though I wasn’t there, I’m confident that no agent busted down doors or shot around corners.

According to reports, though not to the hysterical hyperbole employed by Donald Trump on the campaign trail, this was a professional operation, approved at the highest levels of the Justice Department and the federal judiciary.

Still, thanks to Trump-appointed U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon, a special master must sort through and review 13,000 documents and items seized from Mar-a Lago before the investigation can continue. The ruling came after even Trump’s former attorney general, William Barr — who judged Cannon’s ruling “deeply flawed” — eventually came to the conclusion that the federal government had no choice but to act in the face of Trump’s defiance.

More delay, more court review, it seems, before the public gets any closer to finding out why a private citizen who used to be president took classified government documents to his private club or what national, perhaps damaging secrets Trump and company held on to despite entreaties to do the right thing.

I get it, though. I understand why the former president and his followers — the crowd current President Joe Biden accurately labels “MAGA Republicans” — believe that the rules apply only to some, while others get to make them up as they go along. Just look at the excuses they make for his behavior, and the twists and turns of spine and morality necessary to turn violent Capitol rioters into “patriots.”

To realize there really are different and inequitable systems of justice in a country that swears it isn’t so, look no further than the case of a woman who was given none of the protections or attention that those with wealth and power take for granted.

Breonna Taylor was defenseless. In fact, as we’ve found out from a guilty plea by someone tasked with enforcing the law, the search that ended in Taylor’s death was based on lies.

Former Louisville detective Kelly Goodlett late last month pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge, admitting she helped falsify the warrant and conspired with another officer to concoct a cover story when the March 2020 killing of this young Black woman belatedly made national news.

I relate much more to Taylor’s plight than Trump’s, having been seen more than once during my growing-up years as more perp than citizen minding my own business by law enforcement patrolling my working-class Black neighborhood. Then again, I would think that most Americans struggling to get through each day would find more similarities with the emergency room technician who wanted to be a nurse than a former president who refuses to accept defeat in a presidential election.

Yet, one search garners the headlines and boiling outrage, while the other earns little more than a mention, unless you’re a friend or family member or anyone interested in an American system of justice that works fairly.

What hate did to Birmingham

In the 1950s, Atlanta and Birmingham were about the same size, with about the same population, problems and promise, John Archibald points out in his book “Shaking the Gates of Hell: A Search for Family and Truth in the Wake of the Civil Rights Revolution.” But then, Atlanta fashioned itself the city “too busy to hate,” while Birmingham, “as the world would learn, was not that busy.”

I told Archibald I would reference that line, crediting him, of course, after he repeated it in a speech during the recent National Society of Newspaper Columnists conference in that Alabama city, his home base, because it was both ruefully funny and soul-crushingly tragic — and most of all, because it provides a too accurate view of a cycle that continues, one you don’t have to travel to Birmingham to observe.

Those at the conference got a chance to witness the roots and results of what hate did to Birmingham, how it labeled the city and hobbled its progress, during a visit to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Unfortunately, those who most need to learn its lessons would never have the sense or the courage to set a foot inside.

What happens to America when optimism dies?

When I interviewed Majority Whip James Clyburn in 2014 about his memoir “Blessed Experiences: Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black,” the South Carolina Democrat was confident in America’s ability to find its way, no matter how extreme the political swings might appear at any given time.

“The country from its inception is like the pendulum on a clock,” the congressman told me. “It goes back and forward. It tops out to the right and starts back to the left — it tops out to the left and starts back to the right.” And remember, he said, it “spends twice as much time in the center.”

I have always appreciated Clyburn’s wisdom, his passion and his commitment to his constituents. But most of all, I have admired the optimism of this child of the South, who grew up hemmed in by Jim Crow’s separate and unequal grip, yet who believed in the innate goodness of America and its people. Clyburn put his own life on the line to drag the country — kicking and screaming — into a more just future.

He was convinced, I believe, that no matter how off balance America might become, the country would eventually right itself.

A lot has changed since that afternoon, when he sat at a long table, signing books and chatting in the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture in Charlotte, N.C., right beside his beloved wife. Emily Clyburn, a passionate civil rights activist, died in 2019, though Clyburn often references her wise words.

That optimism, however, has lost its glow.

Clyburn’s worries drove our conversation in July 2021, the second of two times he was a guest on my CQ Roll Call “Equal Time” podcast. The topic was voting rights, and Clyburn had opinions about the Senate procedure that would eventually stall legislation to reform those rights and restore provisions invalidated by a Supreme Court decision in 2013.

“When it comes to the constitutional issues like voting, guaranteed to Blacks by the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution, that should not be filibustered,” he said. And about restrictive laws being passed in states? “I want you to call it what it is. Use the word: nullification. It is voter nullification.”

“This isn’t about just voting; this is about whether or not we will have a democracy or an autocracy.”

With those remarks in the back of my mind, it was still startling to hear Clyburn last week on MSNBC, talking about his GOP House colleagues, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, and their waffling about complying with subpoenas from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack.

When asked if the government and Capitol Hill could “be fixed,” Clyburn, known for his philosophical “this too shall pass” mantra, instead replied, “I don’t know.” He talked about threats to undermine democracy and said the country is “teetering on the edge.”

And that was before the shooting in Buffalo that claimed the lives of 10 beautiful Americans doing something as routine as Saturday supermarket shopping. African Americans were targeted by an 18-year-old who wore his “white supremacist” label like a badge of honor in a heavily plagiarized racist screed, a man whose stated goal was to “kill as many blacks as possible.”

Is it any wonder Clyburn’s optimism has been waning in these times?

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

Local News Roundup: Earnest Winston fired; Panthers’ HQ agreement ended in Rock Hill; and more

The CMS Board of Education fired Superintendent Earnest Winston on Tuesday, in a 7-2 vote. In a time period of high scrutiny over school performance, lower test scores and mismanagement within the school, the board decided to part ways with Winston, but pay him over half a million dollars over the next two years. We’ll talk about what happened and what’s next.

In other school news, despite racial gaps and setbacks because of the pandemic, a CMS official says it’s time to scale back on testing within the school system in the coming year.

The Carolina Panthers have ended their agreement with Rock Hill over a new headquarters and practice facility this week. The future of the team’s $800 million facility is now up in the air.

And two Charlotte streets with racist ties will soon have new names. The city announced new names for Stonewall Street and Barringer Drive. We’ll give the details.

Guest host Erik Spanberg from the “Charlotte Business Journal” and our roundtable of reporters delve into those stories and all the week’s top local and regional news on the Charlotte Talks local news roundup.

Guests:

Jonathan Lowe, anchor/ reporter for Spectrum News

Nick Ochsner, WBTV’s executive producer for Investigations & chief investigative reporter

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

Ann Doss Helms, WFAE rducation reporter

But what will the ‘optics’ be?

After the votes are counted, probably this week, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will almost certainly be a Supreme Court justice. But members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who wanted to use her confirmation hearings for everything but the thing they were designed for are also walking away satisfied.

Republican senators like Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Ted Cruz of Texas used their time to either talk down to Jackson or talk past her to make political points.

During the hearings, questions that criticized her sentencing philosophy as well as “empathy” were tailor-made for the African American Supreme Court candidate and a slew of negative ads to accuse her and every Democrat of being soft on crime in general and pornographers in particular.

In that, they were merely following the playbook that has become routine and is unfortunate for any American who wants to get anything done, especially, in this instance, for advocates of criminal justice reform. That Jackson had the support of major law enforcement groups and could boast of relatives with more time on the front lines of fighting crime than all those senators combined were facts to be ignored by those looking to set a narrative. That her sentencing record resembled that of Republican judges favored by the disagreeing and disagreeable senators were details to be brushed aside. Cotton, in fact, has ramped up his attacks, saying, to the disgust of the Anti-Defamation League, that she would represent “Nazis.”

After listening to and watching the show along with the rest of us, three Republican senators have explained their reasoning for backing the eminently qualified jurist while decrying the partisan grandstanding that has accompanied modern Supreme Court justice hearings. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah, who actually voted against her last time around, had met with Jackson. They apparently have seen her as she truly is, not the ridiculous caricature constructed by her interrogators.

What did that get the three? The label of “pro-pedophile” from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. Along with that slander, she also tweeted the proof was, “They just voted for #KBJ,” when the vote had not yet happened. But when has being wrong on fact or intention ever stopped the Georgia Republican?

It all fits in with the spectacle of Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee continuing their snarling and baseless accusations against Jackson this past Monday — the April 4 anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The symbolism speaks for itself and points to a larger problem.

Say goodbye to reality-based reasoned discussion, with give-and-take from every side, and hello to filtering every issue through fear, feelings and optics.

Get used to terms such as “woke,” “socialism,” “critical race theory” and now “pedophile” in outraged statements and already surfacing alarmist election ads.

EQUALibrium: A public conversation on race and equity in Charlotte

Eight years ago in 2014, Charlotte ranked 50 out of 50 of the nation’s largest metro areas in an upward mobility study from Harvard and the University of California-Berkeley.
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The “Land of Opportunity” study painted a bleak outlook for Charlotte’s poorest residents, but served as a wake up call for city officials and community members.

Leaders took action to address and correct the trends in mobility. Money was raised, programs were launched and attention was paid to areas like pre-K education, affordable housing and transportation.

So, where is Charlotte now?

In this special conversation, host Mary C. Curtis is joined by local leaders and experts at Project 658 in Charlotte to look at how far the city has come, and what still needs to happen to improve upward mobility in Charlotte.

GUESTS

  • Ely Portillo, assistant director of outreach & strategic partnerships at UNC Charlotte’s Urban Institute
  • Sherri Chisholm, executive director of Leading on Opportunity
  • Vi Lyles, mayor of Charlotte
  • Charis Blackmon, executive director of West Side Community Land Trust
  • Daniel Valdez, senior director of external affairs at Welcoming America

Biden to Pick Black Woman for Supreme Court

Talking, what else, the Supreme Court and President Biden’s promise to appoint a Black women, on The Daily Drum, WHUR and Sirius 141, with host Harold Fisher, fellow guests Howard U poli sci prof Dr. Niambi Carter and political analyst Dr. Sherice Nelson