With freedom rides and ‘states’ rights’ refrains, old times in America are not forgotten

Buses of civil rights demonstrators are on the road carrying Americans who want to send a message to their political leaders. They want to add their voices to the Washington debates over stalled infrastructure legislation, voting rights protections and every important discussion that could affect participation in democracy.

Shades of the 1960s activism that spurred history-making laws such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968, all steps toward a more inclusive country — the goal, unfulfilled, in the idealistic words of America’s founding documents.

An unfortunate throwback also front and center is the opposition, exalting the primacy of “states’ rights.” It is not showing out in the violence that met the earlier bus occupants at stop after stop. But that familiar phrase or the sentiment animating it, the condemnation of interference from the big, bad federal government so dear to the heart of obstructionists back then, was the refrain from Republican senators who on Tuesday voted down any attempt to discuss proposed legislation that would protect the fundamental franchise for all.

POLITICAL WRAP: Senate Unlikely to Support Commission on Capitol Attack

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Legislation to establish an independent commission investigating the attack on the Capitol on January 6th will likely die in the Senate.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is sending strong signals that House Democrats will go it alone if the commission vote fails in the Senate.

Sorry, but ‘Gone With the Wind’ is not a history book

The White House issued a proclamation last week, of the sort that most presidents have issued about historical events that deserve commemorating, but that were missing, for the most part, during the Trump reign.

This one marked the 60th anniversary of the first Freedom Rides, on May 4, 1961, when traveling on a bus meant risking your life, if you were with an integrated group, sitting in a spot of your choice. Those southbound heroes were willing to face beatings and the unknown at the hands of fellow citizens intent on stopping progress by any means necessary. Angry and afraid, the violent white supremacist mobs refused to acknowledge the humanity of African Americans or the validity of any law that looked forward not back.

It’s the reality — and not the myth of uncomplicated greatness the country has told the world and itself for far too long.

And it’s not always pretty.

For that reason, many Republicans want to “cancel” it, to use a word today’s conservatives have been misusing with reckless abandon. They’d like to erase the history and the essential lessons that reveal so much about how and why America is so divided and its systems — of health care, housing, education and more — so inequitable in 2021.

If corporations are people, they just might have an opinion

That Pepsi bottle on the counter looks so out of place. My husband has always been a Diet Coke man. It’s a matter of principle, he tells me, even as he admits he prefers “The Real Thing.” Coca-Cola’s statement disapproving of Georgia’s new voting restrictions was too little, too late, and that’s that, he says. All of that puts the Atlanta-based soft drink giant in a bind, since even its belated critical stand was too much for backers of the bill, who are also banishing Coke from their own fridges, they say.

What’s a company to do?

I can’t feel too sorry for Coca-Cola, Delta and the rest, though, since they’ve been playing the political game forever while pretending to be above it all. And I have to stifle a laugh at the Republican politicians who are admonishing corporations and sports leagues now that the bills the GOP instigated aren’t getting a pass. These are the same pols who eagerly accepted campaign donations and good PR in days past.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is astute enough to recognize why his furrowed brow and outraged words are landing with a thud. It’s why his story is constantly changing. He told companies to stay out of politics, was called on it, then said he meant to only offer advice that business leaders read the fine print before opening their mouths and closing their pocketbooks.

Mary C. Curtis: COVID Relief Bill And Increased Vaccine Rollout

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Efforts continue on another COVID-19 stimulus for millions of struggling Americans. President Biden already meeting with both democrats and republicans this week to talk about his $1.9 trillion plan.

Senate democrats ready to move forward, saying the danger is not doing too much, it’s doing too little.

Political contributor Mary C. Curtis joins Rising to talk about the COVID-19 relief plans in Washington.

You can catch Mary C. Curtis on Sunday nights at 6:30 PM on WCCB Charlotte’s CW discussing the biggest issues in local and national politics and also giving us a look at what’s ahead for the week.

You can also check out Mary’s podcast ‘Equal Time.’

Mary C. Curtis: Will Lawmakers Increase Stimulus Money?

CHARLOTTE, NC — President Donald Trump is pushing for higher COVID payouts as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocks a vote on them in the Senate.

WCCB political contributor Mary C. Curtis discusses the latest from Washington and what it means moving forward.

You can catch Mary C. Curtis on Sunday nights at 6:30 PM on WCCB Charlotte’s CW discussing the biggest issues in local and national politics and also giving us a look at what’s ahead for the week.

You can also check out Mary’s podcast ‘Equal Time.’

Mary C. Curtis: Will A Supreme Court Justice Sway The Presidential Race?

CHARLOTTE, NC — In her first week on the job, Justice Amy Coney Barrett could be weighing in on a number of important cases piling up in the Supreme Court, including several related to next week’s election.

WCCB political contributor Mary C. Curtis weighs-in on what kind of impact Barrett could have on the presidential race.

POLITICAL WRAP: Battle Over Filling Supreme Court Opening

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Battle lines are being drawn over the fight to fill the open seat on the Supreme Court. Our political contributor Mary C. Curtis takes a look at the possible scenarios over the weeks and months to come.

To remember John Lewis, remember the real John Lewis — and his righteous fight

Many Americans, when they remember the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, reflexively turn to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, quoting selective passages about content of character. But my sister Joan, who stood under a shaded tent that day, making signs with freedom slogans for out-of-towners to raise high, had a different answer when I asked for her thoughts. Not to take anything away from King, she told me, “It wasn’t just that speech. It was all the speeches.” And what impressed her teenage self most were the words of a man who was just 23, a few years older than she was.

On that day, John Lewis was already stirring up the “good trouble” he favored when he said: “To those who have said, ‘Be patient and wait,’ we have long said that we cannot be patient. We do not want our freedom gradually, but we want to be free now!”

It was a speech that, in an early draft, was a tad fiery for some elders in the movement for equality and justice. Lewis did tone it down — but not enough to lose its urgency.

Some of the tributes to Lewis, who died last week at the age of 80, emphasized his generosity of spirit, evident in his ability to forgive and embrace those who beat him into unconsciousness. But the picture is incomplete without acknowledging the impatience, the fury to make it right, that saw him through more than three dozen arrests, five after he was elected to Congress. Just as those who would have been or probably were in that majority of Americans who considered King a rabble-rouser then and revere him now, many are all too eager to recast Lewis as a secular saint who just wanted everyone to get along.

Of course, they would. It would let them off the hook.

There is more than one way to be Black — and to be an American

Elijah McClain of Aurora, Colorado, was many things. The slight 23-year-old, who looked younger, was a massage therapist one client described as “the sweetest, purest person I have ever met.” He was a vegetarian who taught himself to play the guitar and violin and shared his musical gifts with shelter animals to calm them. Family members said he sometimes wore a ski mask because he was anemic and always cold, and perhaps to create some distance in a world he found overwhelming. (And aren’t we all supposed to be covering our faces these days.) In his final trip to a convenience store, though, he interacted with the clerk and customers, it seemed from video, offering a bow on his way out.

Did he look “sketchy” and “suspicious” to a 911 caller and police because he sang to himself on the walk home and waved his arms, perhaps conducting a symphony only he could hear? McClain told the police who stopped him, “I am an introvert, please respect the boundaries that I am speaking.”

The three officers escalated the confrontation, took him down with a hold that made him utter a too-often-heard refrain: “I just can’t breathe correctly.” One officer threatened to sic a dog on him. If they saw his quirks, his idiosyncrasies, his joy, it did not translate. If they heard his pleas, these enforcers of laws the young man had not broken did not listen. “You are beautiful and I love you,” he told them. He apologized for vomiting as police tossed around his 140-pound body before medics shot it up with strong drugs.

Now, Elijah McClain, who police say committed no crime, is dead.