Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:
The Charlotte Observer on U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger's loss in the Republican primary in North Carolina's 9th District:
Democrats' enthusiasm about potentially winning North Carolina's 9th congressional district for the first time in 58 years got two shots of adrenaline Tuesday, from Republican Robert Pittenger's surprising loss and Democrat Dan McCready's overwhelming win.
Pittenger entered Tuesday believing he was on safer ground than he was two years ago, when he beat former Baptist preacher Mark Harris by just 134 votes in a newly drawn district. But Harris pulled the upset this time, likely making the 9th District even more vulnerable to flipping parties than it already was. And McCready's dismissal of Democratic challenger Christian Cano positions him to attract even more national attention and money and to ride a blue wave in November, if there is one.
It is by winning Republican districts like the 9th around the country that Democrats could take control of the U.S. House and block President Trump's agenda. Pittenger and Harris each cast the other as insufficiently supportive of Trump. But Republican voters were tired of Pittenger, who was seen as part of the "establishment" and whom one national analyst had dubbed the biggest Republican "slacker" in the House.
Almost as notable as Pittenger's loss was McCready's performance. Not only did he sprint past Cano in his first run for office, but he also motivated voters to get to the polls in unusual numbers. Far more Democratic voters than Republicans turned out in District 9, even though it's a Republican-leaning district and had a more competitive Republican primary than Democratic one. That suggests Democratic enthusiasm in November. If Republicans can't win seats like the 9th, which went solidly for Trump, they are in trouble.
North Carolina and three other states held the first primaries of the year Tuesday. Dozens of others will follow in coming weeks and will begin to make clear how the November landscape will look. There's a buzz in the air, not of impending revolution, perhaps, but certainly of change. Voters are unsettled, some even infuriated, and they're intent on being heard more than they have in a generation.
They'll have their chance in November, when 470 U.S. House and Senate seats and 170 N.C. House and Senate seats are up for election. In Mecklenburg, they started Tuesday by kicking two incumbents - Democrats Joel Ford and Rodney Moore - out of office, as well as incumbent Democratic Sheriff Irwin Carmichael.
Those three will or are likely to be replaced by other Democrats, and Republicans are at risk of losing their veto-proof supermajorities in Raleigh. Three races in Mecklenburg in November will help determine that: Republican Sen. Jeff Tarte in a toss-up district against Natasha Marcus; Republican Rep. John Bradford in a potentially competitive race against Christy Clark; and Republican Rep. Andy Dulin against Democratic attorney Brandon Lofton, if he survives a residency challenge.
The StarNews of Wilmington on The National Memorial for Peace and Justice opening in Alabama, and the history of lynchings in North Carolina:
Thousands of Confederate monuments dot the South and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. It's nice when something pops up, as Paul Harvey used to say, to tell the rest of the story.
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice formally opened April 26 near the State Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama. The memorial is a stark documentation of the number of human beings killed in the South during the sad and sorry era known as Jim Crow.
Primarily, the memorial documents lynchings.
The Equal Justice Institute, a non-profit lawyers' group dedicated to overturning unjust convictions, is the organization behind the memorial.
It documented more than 4,400 cases of individuals being hanged by vigilantes in the Old Confederacy between 1877 — when the last federal troops pulled out of the legion — and the last documented lynching, in 1941.
These non-judicial executions were carried out by lawless bands, some connected to the Ku Klux Klan, others ad hoc. Often, the victims were not only hanged, but also burned, castrated or flayed alive. (The flecks of skin were often saved as souvenirs.)
Some of the victims were white, most notably the Jewish mill manager Leo Frank, who was pulled from a jail and lynched in 1915 outside Marietta, Ga.
The overwhelming majority, however, were African-American men. Their "crimes" included such offenses as holding a photo of a white woman, trying to vote or generally acting "uppity."
The perpetrators of these crimes generally were never punished, nor even brought to trial.
These weren't just sadistic homicides. They were deliberate acts of terror, meant to frighten the black population into toeing the line of Jim Crow segregation and low-wage labor. Tote that barge, lift that bale, or you might wind up as some of the "Strange Fruit" from Billie Holiday's harrowing song.
Tar Heels can tell themselves thank God for Mississippi or Alabama. The death toll from lynchings in North Carolina was 123 in that seven-decade period, according to EJI. (They count a few more cases than official sources, but their research appears solid.) North Carolina's toll was lower than some Deep South states.
Yet it was still horrific — and it hits close to home. According to the memorial, 22 people were lynched in New Hanover, more than in any other North Carolina county. On the memorial's tally of counties, New Hanover ranks in the grisly Top 20 of most lynchings in the entire nation.
Those who know the history of 1898 know that a lot of hate brewed in and around Wilmington. It is shocking, though, to be confronted by the raw, bare numbers.
It is not enough, either, to claim these things all happened long, long ago. The after-effects of that terror still poison race relations in this region and hinder progress.
They make a hollow lie of our preachments to other nations about the war on terror. Terror made a home here for a long, long time.
We can't bring the dead back to life. Nothing can make this right. We can, however, do whatever we can to treat each other as human beings — and never to forget the many times we did not.
The Wilson Times says the University of North Carolina should revoke Bill Cosby's honorary doctorate:
Disgraced comic Bill Cosby, now a convicted sex offender, is losing degrees faster than a garden thermometer in a midwinter snowstorm.
Over the years, Cosby's racked up roughly five-dozen honorary doctorates. Notre Dame, Johns Hopkins, Boston College and Carnegie Mellon have revoked his degrees from those institutions in the wake of his April 26 conviction on sexual assault charges in Pennsylvania.
North Carolina A&T State revoked the honorary degree it issued to Cosby a decade ago, and University of North Carolina Chancellor Carol Folt has asked trustees to claw back his UNC sheepskin, too.
No one could blame institutions of higher learning for wanting to distance themselves from Cosby, who jurors determined drugged and sexually assaulted Temple University official Andrea Constand. While UNC is well within its rights to disavow the honor, it's worth asking why reputable colleges and universities routinely stamp their seals on unearned doctorates for celebrities high and petty in the first place.
The questionable practice dates to at least 1470, when no less an academic powerhouse than Oxford gave an honorary degree to a cleric who later became bishop of Salisbury. The tradition caught on and English colleges became diploma mills for earls and barons who never cracked a book or scribbled on parchment in their storied halls.
There's a cogent case to be made for recognizing self-tutored poets, composers, authors and inventors with an honorary degree when they produce a body of work that equals or outshines that of their well-schooled peers. Call it narrowing the gap between theory and practice; a credit-by-exam program taken to its logical conclusion. But such honorees are the exception rather than the rule in modern American academia.
Too often, the doctorates are catnip for celebrities who give commencement speeches, perhaps with the hope that they'll join the donor rolls. They're at best a publicity stunt — glowing news stories about such actual degree recipients as Orlando Bloom, Jimmy Kimmel and Jon Bon Jovi always follow the presentations — and at worst a transparent plea for cash.
If all it takes to receive a doctorate is achieving fame and amassing wealth, what makes these degrees different from vanity awards such as "who's who" lists and fake honor societies that induct anyone who pays for the privilege?
In a too-little-too-late effort to impose a modicum of respectability on the scheme, most colleges reserve specific distinctions for honorary degrees, such as doctor of humane letters, and ask that recipients refrain from titling themselves doctors and otherwise misrepresenting the degree.
The Associated Press Stylebook, a reference manual for journalists that most American newspapers use, counsels reporters and editors not to use the abbreviation Dr. "before the names of individuals who hold only honorary doctorates."
Cautions to avoid confusion and impersonation aren't always heeded. Maya Angelou and Billy Graham, whose degrees were honorary, were often referred to as doctors. Comedian and actor Denis Leary, who snagged an honorary doctorate from Emerson College in 2005, splashed "Dr. Denis Leary" on the cover of his 2009 book "Why We Suck" and the 2017 sequel "Why We Don't Suck."
Colleges were founded for the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, but today they exist to pass students through standardized courses and confer credentials that qualify alumni for careers. The workforce and society at large estimates the value of those credentials by the time and toil it takes to earn them. Giving out too many honorary degrees too often inflates the currency of those credentials, making them less scarce and therefore less valuable.
We're not going to begrudge a true self-taught scholar the degree he or she earned through the proverbial School of Hard Knocks. But if writers, musicians and creators can change the world without a doctorate gathering dust on the wall, why on earth do they need one?
The Latin term for an unearned degree is one that is presented "honoris causa," or "for the sake of honor." The same inscription is etched on the Pulitzer Prize medallion, which is rarer and more prestigious than a run-of-the-mill doctorate. If universities want to recognize exceptional achievement, why not do so with a plaque, medal, trophy or other such award?
UNC should revoke Bill Cosby's honorary doctorate. Then it should stop cheapening the highest degrees it confers by passing them out like awards show gifts in celebrity swag bags.