Unpacking the Political Actions of Black Americans
25 October 2022
At every level of my being, it pains me to share the thoughts reflected in this opinion column. However, I believe that God and circumstances require me to do so.
With a look of bewilderment, a white man asked me why any black Fayetteville citizens would oppose an arrangement that allows them to vote for six city council representatives instead of two. He was referring to the Vote Yes Fayetteville petition effort that seeks to restructure the council so that there would be four at-large council positions and five elected by districts. In addition to the mayor who is elected at-large, each citizen would vote for four at-large council members, plus one for their district, resulting in voting for six.
Even though more than the required 5,000 registered voters signed a petition calling for this proposal to be placed on the November 2022 ballot, City Council voted 6-4 not to do so. For details as to council’s actions, see my opinion column titled “Majority of Fayetteville, NC City Council…A Dictatorship Government” at: https://www.karlmerritt.com/2022/08/29/majority-of-fayetteville-nc-city-council-a-dictatorship-government/
In response to the question reported above, I said, “It is about gaining and holding power.” That was as much as I had time to say before our conversation had to end. In what follows, I expand on that response. Gaining and holding power is not, in and of itself, detrimental to our country. The detrimental effect is in what goals, what actions, are pursued by those who attain power. Far too often, the aim is to increase personal wealth and influence. The primary means to this end is to outright buy votes by taking actions that benefit certain groups of individuals while dangerously financially indebting governments at various levels and pitting diverse constituencies against one another. Sadly, this is the prevailing condition in our nation.
I contend that the overwhelming support by black Americans for the Democratic Party, its candidates and policies, allows for some unpacking and dissecting of how this power-seeking process works in America. Democrats follow what might be stated as a formula for influencing, if not totally controlling, the political actions of millions of black Americans. Based on my personal observations and experiences, here is what I see as key elements of that formula:
- Repeatedly reinforce in the minds of black Americans that we are victims of rampant racism and, therefore, deserving of focused actions to address this reality.
- Suppress critical thought and promote actions based on emotions.
- Instill in black Americans the belief that, simply due to skin color, white Americans are privileged and are likely racist.
- Where a black person acts counter to the conduct that normally results from items 1-3, that person is lambasted and excluded from the black community.
With those four elements of the formula in mind, I contend that examining what has happened, and is happening, in the Vote Yes Fayetteville effort shows the formula in action. These happenings also address the question reflected in the opening of this column. When Fayetteville City Council voted 6-4 not to put the restructuring proposal on the November ballot, Robert (Bobby) Hurst, Suzanne Pennink, and I joined as plaintiffs in a complaint heard by Judge Jim Ammons of the Cumberland County Superior Court to have the referendum placed on the ballot.
Regarding the first element of the formula for controlling black political thought and actions, consider the reasons given by various black citizens and black elected officials for opposing the Vote Yes Fayetteville effort. Those reasons are summarized well in the following from an article by Paul Woolverton in the Fayetteville Observer headlined “Time running out — elections staff needs answer ASAP in Fayetteville Vote Yes lawsuit”:
Opponents of the Vote Yes referendum have said the proposed change the city council — from nine district seats to five citywide seats plus four districts that would be much larger than they are now — would drive up the cost of running for office. They said it’s an attempt by Fayetteville’s old political network to dilute the power of Black voters.
The proposal actually calls for four at-large seats and five by district. However, given what I have read and heard, the quote accurately presents the stated reasons for opposition among many black Fayetteville citizens.
Beyond the stated – rather sanitized – reasons for opposition to this change, there is what is taught to black Americans, especially the young. During a recess in the court session where putting the referendum on the November ballot was addressed, I had a brief conversation with a young black mother. She had her school-aged daughter with her and told me that she was homeschooling her. The mother stated that she brought her daughter to court so that she could see that things have not changed from what black Americans faced years ago. She went on to talk about the years of segregation and mistreatment of blacks in America.
It was clear to me that if Judge Ammons, as he did, concluded that the referendum in question should be put on the ballot, that mother would tell her daughter it was because black people in America are still mistreated and abused. There would be no discussion of the facts of the case and how the judge explained his decision based on those facts.
The examples could go on, but these two point to the victimization element of the formula for controlling the political actions of black Americans. Sadly, what is reflected in that Woolverton quote and in what that mother is doing to her daughter is not limited to a few people speaking publicly or to parent/child interactions; it is happening in the education system and other centers of influence across this nation.
Second, there is suppression of critical thought and promotion of actions based on emotions. Critical thought is defined in the Oxford Languages Dictionary as “the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.” What follows was transcribed from the audio transcript of the hearing in which Judge Ammons ordered that the Vote Yes Fayetteville resolution be put on the November ballot. He summarizes the facts, and his examination of those facts, that led to his decision:
“I want to point everybody to the North Carolina Constitution. Article 1 Section 2: ‘Sovereignty of the people. All political power is vested in and derived from the people; all government of right originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole.’ Article 12 also mentions that the people have a right for redress of their grievances. And the procedure is laid out to do that and the procedure must be followed.
So the plaintiff alleges that they are entitled to relief based on the statute and complying with it. The defendants allege that the right has not been clearly established and notice has not been given and that the time to comply has elapsed being one year. So the court will rely on the party drawing the order to make the perfect finding of facts and conclusive law including that the Vote Yes Committee formed and established…. That on March 19, 2021 they met with Miss. Terri Robertson who was then Director of the Cumberland County Board of Education [sic: read Board of Elections] to discuss their plan to pursue a referendum. During the meeting, they presented her with some paperwork and she indicated they were acceptable. That from that point forward, it was well known that this petition was circulating through Fayetteville and people were asked to sign it. There were numerous occasions the plaintiffs would contact the Board of Elections either by email or in person to present examples of petitions to ensure the proper steps were going forward. There is no evidence that they were ever told that they were not moving in the proper manner.
On March the 18th, I believe, over 5000 signatures, maybe 5700, were delivered. They were subsequently checked by the Board of Elections; having been duly submitted by March 18th. On June the 13th, the Board of Elections, by letter to Mr. Hurst, indicated that 5009 signatures were proper, which reached the threshold of 5000. That the City Council has twice put this on the agenda to ask for the election to be had. Once removed it with no explanation and then once by the 6-4 vote – voted not to put it on the ballot. That the City Council has failed to call for the special election as required by the statute, that the plaintiffs have a clear right to this action having complied with the statute, including 163 – 218 and 219, and that there is no form that substantially complied; the Board of Elections certified their petition and that there is no legitimate right for the City Council to object to putting this measure before the people. Therefore, the claimants are entitled to the relief they requested, including injunctive relief and a writ of mandamus. So I am going to order the Board of Elections not to print any ballots until this measure has been included.”
I contend that critical thought, not emotions, is reflected in the judge’s statement. The problem is that people who have been conditioned to respond based on emotions will not consider the facts, will not think critically regarding this issue. I would be interested to know how many black Fayetteville citizens who are criticizing Judge Ammons’ ruling were in the courtroom or have listened to the audio transcript. The sad, horrendous fact of life is that those who seek to control the political actions of black Americans know the power of critical thought and do all that they can to deny us the practice of it. I say “us” because I am black.
A third element is instilling in black Americans the belief that, simply due to skin color, white Americans are privileged and are likely racist. Look again at the last line of the quote above from Paul Woolverton’s article: “They said it’s an attempt by Fayetteville’s old political network to dilute the power of Black voters.”
I have lived long enough and seen enough to know the message here is that the white folk are seeking to exercise unfair power over black citizens. This is a “dog whistle”. Normally, the use of “dog whistles” in political circles refers to what happens among white Americans regarding non-white groups, especially black Americans. However, what is described here is clearly dog whistling among black Americans regarding whites. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines the term as follows: “Figuratively, a ‘dog whistle’ is a coded message communicated through words or phrases commonly understood by a particular group of people, but not by others.”
The Council’s decision to defy 5,000 registered voters by refusing to put the Vote Yes Fayetteville referendum on the ballot is also a dog whistle to black citizens. It says that several members of council will stand with the black community against what is perceived to be an effort driven only by white citizens. As though that were not enough, they spend taxpayer money, including that from those 5,000 supporters of the referendum, to defend their decision in court. Even further, when the ruling was in favor of the plaintiffs, the council appealed the judge’s decision. In my estimation, these actions defy reason and can only be explained as advancing the contention that white citizens have the advantage and must be controlled no matter the cost; no matter how unfair and irrational the tactics.
Interestingly, while City Council spends tax dollars to fund their defense, the citizens seeking redress must raise funds from the public to pay the cost of seeking fair resolution of the referendum matter.
An action by Councilman Mario Benavente, I contend, perfectly demonstrates the use of dog whistling to do all of what has been examined to this point. That is, among black citizens, feed and exploit the “blacks are victims” state-of-mind, suppress critical thought. and portray white citizens as privileged. The councilman represents District Three.
In an article headlined “Fayetteville councilman accuses judge of misconduct”, Paul Woolverton reports accusations made by Benavente during a press conference. According to Woolverton, the councilman alleged that Judge Ammons “met privately with Vote Yes supporters to discuss the case prior to the hearing.” Such a meeting –called ex parte communication- would be an ethical violation that could lead to punishment for the judge. The article states the following:
“Benavente offered no direct evidence of an ex parte communication. Instead, ‘That was the perception received by folks in the audience that day [in the courtroom],’ he said. ‘That’s the perception that I received from constituents who reached out to me since then.’”
“‘And rather than kicking that up to somewhere outside of the county, a local judge ended up ruling,’ Benavente said. ‘And it was clear to many in the audience, as it was clear to many who read it in the paper the next day, that that decision was not made based on the facts presented that morning in the courtroom, but likely on the conversations that happened at Highland Country Club.’”
“Highland is an exclusive, expensive, invitation-only country club that has counted many Fayetteville movers-and-shakers among its membership. Ammons is not a member.”
The references above: reflect the victim component in the claim of a pre-determined decision by the judge who is widely known to be white; the lack of any offer of critical thought in that no facts are provided; mentioning Highland Country Club to insert the “privileged” argument regarding white citizens. All of this is presented to, and accepted by, a far too large a number of black Fayetteville citizens who are controlled by this formula that promotes emotional thought over critical thought.
A question for Councilman Benavente is why he would, as a law school graduate preparing to take the bar examination for his law license, accuse Judge Ammons of misconduct while presenting absolutely no proof. Even further, he depends on observations of people in a court room (where I did not see him present) and others who reached their conclusions based on newspaper articles. I am inclined to believe that Benavente knows that he cannot successfully counter the facts as presented in the hearing and reflected in Judge Ammons’ decision summary above. Consequently, understanding that the thought control formula is well at work in Fayetteville’s black community, he puts forth to that community an allegation that will be processed emotionally and not through critical thought.
A fourth element of the control formula is that those who are black, but refuse to surrender to the dictates of the liberal plantation masters are lambasted, ridiculed, and expelled from black societal circles. From my experience, here is what this element looks like in action. What follows is a Facebook post by a black lady who addressed my being a plaintiff in the Vote Yes Fayetteville referendum case:
“…a group of whites people, led by Bobby Hurst got together, found a Black token…..that first one came to his senses, so they found a second Black token in Merritt….his chest poked out because now he’s named on this thing along with the white folks…..that’s who got together. There is NO clear diversity in the support of this. It is CLEARLY divided down the racial lines with those white folks who know what this is stepping on the right side to prevent what the Good Ole Boys are attempting to do.”
That Facebook post speaks for itself. I need not comment further except to say that this element keeps a lot of black Americans silent in the face of tremendous wrongs.
There they are; four key elements of the formula that I believe explains why some number, maybe substantial, of black citizens oppose the restructuring of Fayetteville City Council. It is about being conditioned to think emotionally as opposed to critically. Actions based heavily on emotions almost always bring harsh consequences.
The harsh consequences reality is not limited to individuals; it also applies to cities. Those harsh consequences show up in a multitude of ways…among them: economic decline, tax base shrinkage, population decreases, infrastructure deterioration, racial tension, increased crime, reduction in the presence of businesses, neighborhood decay.
Black citizens of Fayetteville should consider the decline of other cities that have gone down the road that we seem to be rapidly traveling. Put emotions aside and think critically; seek and examine the facts. That is what Judge Jim Ammons did.
For Media Entities: This opinion column may not be published by any media entity without the express written permission of Karl Merritt.