My daily walk to and from school in first grade was past the house of the neighborhood bully. Day after day I came home crying. Finally, my mother had enough. “Listen son,” she said. “I don’t like fighting, but I am sick and tired of you coming home every day crying because of that bully. The next time he starts in on you I want you to ball up your fist and hit him in the stomach. Don’t come home crying and complaining anymore.”
I dreaded my walk home that next day and didn’t know if I had enough courage to do what momma said. Sure enough, he came at me. I balled up my fist and punched him in the gut as hard as I could. I was amazed at what happened. He started crying and ran away. We became friends.
Unless I am misjudging current situations, many — maybe a majority — are fed up with the continuous bullying, harassment, extortion and attempts to undermine in North Carolina.
This is especially true with our schools. In an Iredell-Statesville school board meeting, parents angrily smashed a glass door. An Orange County football game was disrupted by white supremacists. The Orange County school board passed a resolution opposing “incidents of hostile and racist behavior,” invoking angry protests from the Proud Boys. The chairman of the Stanly County school board resigned after receiving death threats.
Johnston County commissioners threatened to withhold $7.9 million in federal relief funds if the county school board didn’t pass new rules limiting how teachers can discuss history and racism in their classrooms. The board capitulated to the extortion. Teachers now risk losing their jobs if they even hint that historical figures were racist or less than perfect. How can we possibly educate our children with such harassment and intimidation? Why would anyone serve on a school board?
The situation with education has gotten so bad that U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the FBI would investigate the “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers and staff.”
Sen. Thom Tillis fired off a letter to Garland, saying “We urge you to make very clear to the American public that the Department of Justice will not interfere with the rights of parents to come before school boards and speak with educators about their concerns, whether regarding coronavirus-related measures, the teaching of critical race theory in schools, sexually explicit books in schools, or any other topic.”
Thom didn’t mention bullying, intimidation or unsafe behaviors toward educators or school boards.
Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger pontificated that parents were only engaged in “peaceful protests” at school board meetings, compared to the violence seen at some 2020 Black Lives Matters protests over the killing of Black people by white police officers. Are the two related somehow?
And we wonder why children aren’t doing well in school?
Congressman Madison Cawthorn, who represents the western nethermost region of our state, came all the way down to Johnston County to grandstand at a school board meeting about wearing masks, bragging he carried a knife to the meeting. Cawthorn first declared Biden won in 2020, but now has joined the conspiracy theorists saying it was stolen from Trump, adding that if elections “continue to be stolen,” it will “lead to one place, and that’s bloodshed.” He declared he would dread taking “arms against a fellow American,” but was “willing to defend liberty at all costs.” It’s no surprise he supports the Jan. 6 insurrectionists.
Then there’s Mark Robinson. After hearing about Garland’s investigation our lieutenant governor proclaimed, “The Gestapo has spoken.” He recently told a church group that transgenderism and homosexuality are “filth.” Following calls for his resignation, he tried to do damage control, saying he was talking about teaching LGBTQ+ education in schools and not about LGBTQ+ people themselves. This is the same Mark Robinson who created a task force to uncover massive evidence of Critical Race Theory being taught in our schools. The effort failed due to lack of evidence. Candidate Robinson said in 2018, “half of black Democrats don’t realize they are slaves and don’t know who their masters are. The other half don’t care.”
The lesson I learned so many years ago is that you have to emphatically stand up to bullies or they will get louder and go as far as they can. Today’s problem is that Democrats don’t seem to know how to fight it and mainstream Republicans won’t. They are like lemmings walking off a cliff.
Tom Campbell is a Hall of Fame North Carolina broadcaster and columnist who has covered North Carolina public policy issues since 1965. He recently retired from writing, producing and moderating the statewide half-hour TV program NC SPIN that aired 22½ years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.