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Understanding Kojo Nantambu


If I were Kojo Nantambu, I'd hate white people.

Last week, the NAACP president stood the city on edge by calling Charlotte a "bastion of racism" after school officials used the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday as a snow make-up day.

But you've got to understand where Nantambu is coming from. After living through the Wilmington Ten era, it wouldn't be unrealistic to say that he probably suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Nantambu was there in 1971 when blacks had to barricade their Wilmington neighborhoods to keep out marauding whites who beat and in several instances shot them. White businesses were torched in retaliation.

The violence started over desegregation and because the Wilmington school board prohibited a memorial service on Martin Luther King's birthday. Before that, the city attempted to stop black youths from marching in commemoration of King's assassination. So you can see why Nantambu flipped out when our school board ditched the MLK holiday this year.

It's a testament to the vast improvement in race relations over the last 40 years that when Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Superintendent Peter Gorman asked school board members if they objected to using MLK Day as a snow makeup day, it didn't dawn on African-American school board members like Joyce Waddell to object.

"In hindsight, she wishes she had," The Charlotte Observer reported.

So Nantambu has an excuse for the over-the-top racial rhetoric he has been slinging lately. The Charlotte Observer and Rabbi Judy Schindler don't. Last week, the paper flew in a "civil rights" panel as part of a Levine Museum of the New South discussion called Courage. The Observer, in racially tinged language, equated the struggle to close the $100 million school budget gap to the Brown v. Board of Education desegregation battle, one of the landmark achievements of the bloody (see above) civil rights era. That's simply outrageous.

Schindler went a step further, equating the need for a large tax increase for schools with Rosa Parks' refusal to give up her seat on the bus. Again, that's outrageous.

The clear implication here? Anyone who votes against a fat tax increase is racist.

The schools aren't $100 million short because of racism, but because the profligate idiots on the County Commission and school board built 16 more schools here than Wake County has — and Wake has more students. We wasted half a billion dollars on half-empty schools and now must pay it back. All this was done to cheers from the Observer.

The media template is that many of the proposed cuts will largely affect poor or minority schools or populations, so the cuts must be racist. The speakers flown in on the Observer's dime were clearly prepped to repeat those talking points and repeatedly called for "shared sacrifice" without having any idea what they were talking about.

The cuts will heavily impact minorities. There's no way around that because at nearly 70 percent, our school system is now majority minority and most of its schools are, too. (Most schools with white populations are highly integrated.) The idea that our community has somehow shortchanged poor or minority students is a flat-out lie that can only serve to drive racial tension and suspicion and tear the community apart. That's exactly what Schindler and the Observer are doing.

Per the Observer's own reporting, low-income kids, most of whom are black and Hispanic, receive a third more funding per pupil than middle-income kids. We spend $10,393 per pupil at mostly minority, low-income Thomasboro versus $4,406 at Ballantyne Elementary. CMS spends $8,377 at high-poverty Sedgefield Middle versus $4,014 at low-poverty Community House Middle.

How the heck do you cut more from Ballantyne Elementary? No more math class?

And yes, the school system did just shut down largely minority schools. In a system that's overwhelmingly minority, most schools shut down will have large minority populations. There were no suburban schools to shut down because for the last 15 years, we didn't build many. For years, the new schools were mostly built in low-income areas while we let suburban schools burst at the seams. And those suburban schools? Most are highly integrated.

If you folks want a big tax increase, make an economic argument for one and cut out the shameful, bogus racial crap.

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