State News

NAACP Demands State Action Against Hate Crimes

Posted June 22, 2007 2:32 p.m. EDT
Updated June 22, 2007 6:33 p.m. EDT

— The state chapter of the NAACP called on top state lawmakers Friday to get moving on the group's legislative agenda, saying failure to address inequality creates an atmosphere where bias can flourish.

Officers of the civil rights group delivered a letter to Gov. Mike Easley, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Sarah Parker and leaders of the General Assembly in which they listed acts of racism across the state in recent months.

The lack of action on legislation related to bias creates an impression that the state is happy with the status quo, said the Rev. William Barber, president of the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

"When we fail to address these issues directly, we help create an atmosphere of acceptability, intended or unintended, to the radicals of racial supremacy," Barber said. "Racial discrimination, racial disparity, racial hatred and racial intimidation shall not be tolerated in one North Carolina."

More than 30 hate groups operate in North Carolina, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks such groups.

NAACP officials ticked off a litany of recent examples of racial hatred, including cross burnings in Durham last year, church burnings in Greenville in January, a noose hanging in Raleigh and Ku Klux Klan hotlines in Granville and Vance counties.

"How is it, when you say we don't negotiate with terrorists, you allow terrorists to have a hotline here in North Carolina spewing racism?" said the Rev. Curtis Gatewood of the NAACP.

An Oxford couple also discussed an incident earlier this month in which they said a former Henderson police officer waved a gun and shouted racial slurs at them.

"We have to connect the dots. We cannot just say this is just about Oxford or this is just an isolated incident," Barber said.

The NAACP chapter unveiled its 14-point legislative agenda in February at the beginning of the legislative session. It endorsed issues ranging from expanding health care coverage to abolishing the death penalty.

The group also asked lawmakers to provide more education money to comply with the Leandro school-funding lawsuit, create a "living wage" that would be several dollars more than the current minimum of $6.15 per hour, and give collective bargaining rights to government employees.

Bills have been introduced to encompass most of those items, but only a few have received votes in committees or chambers.