The Associated Press on Monday published a news item that would more correctly be called a shameless press release on behalf of the NAACP.
Writer Allen G. Breed followed the liberal group to Raleigh for a recent show of kabuki theatre. The cause? Getting the Wake County school system to continue the antiquated method of forcibly busing students to far-flung neighborhoods in pursuit of racial integration.
Never mind that the minority-heavy county brought sweeping changes to the school board by giving Republicans control last year - on the very platform of ending integration. And never mind that the majority of African-Americans living there are either opposed or indifferent to school integration. The NAACP knows what is best for them.
Breed predictably began with the headline "Fear of 'Resegregation' Fuels Unrest in NC." What followed was a history lesson obviously designed to drum up more fear:
In the annals of desegregation, Raleigh is barely a footnote.
Integration came relatively peacefully to the North Carolina capital. There was no "stand in the schoolhouse door," no need of National Guard escorts or even a federal court order.
Nearly 50 years passed - mostly uneventfully, at least until a new school board majority was elected last year on a platform supporting community schools.
The result has been turmoil.
When a mainstream media news item uses a delicate word like "turmoil," you can usually take that as a sign of some unhinged liberal getting arrested. In this case, that's exactly what happened: four activists, including the NAACP state leader, disrupted a school board meeting in front of media cameras, sat in the chairs belonging to the school officials, and waited to be pulled away by police.
This apparently made them heroes in the eyes of Breed, who contacted at least one of them for a quote:
"We're not going to sit idly by while they turn the clock back on the blood, sweat and tears and wipe their feet on the sacrifices of so many that have enabled us to get to the place we are today," says the Rev. William J. Barber II, head of the state NAACP chapter and one of the four protesters arrested for trespassing at the June 15 board meeting.
If Barber is so worried about those trying to turn back the clock, his outrage is aimed in the wrong direction. The new school board was elected to do that very thing by voters in the county, many of them minorities, tired of the pointless practice of integration.
Raleigh's local News and Observer provides information from 2009 that got conveniently ignored by the AP:
Winning candidates in Tuesday's Wake County school board elections achieved their victories by tapping into widespread resentment about the schools and offering up the rallying cry "neighborhood schools."
So these proponents of localized education were swept into power by a population ready and willing to "turn back the clock" on school integration.
But wait, it gets worse:
Interviews with candidates and supporters showed that other factors in the near-sweep by opponents of current school board policies included:
- Lackluster support for current board diversity policies by Democrats and even opposition by a significant percentage of African-Americans, as reflected in a private poll taken by a Democratic operative last month.
- A core of discontent not only with board policies on diversity but also with year-round schools and what opponents called an arrogant and distant board and administration.
Indeed, that internal poll conducted by a Democrat campaign operative in September 2009 found that some 46 percent of black voters opposed forced busing, 14 percent had no opinion, and only 39 percent approved.
In other words, the NAACP is staging protests and spouting about civil rights against the very wishes of nearly half the African-Americans in Wake County.
The AP did eventually get around to admitting that some folks wanted to repeal integration... only to reprimand them for being ignorant:
With 140,000 students in 160 schools, Wake County was the largest of about 70 districts across the nation using socio-economic status to maintain diversity. The system was considered a model for those looking for a way around race-based assignment scheme rejected by the courts.
"It (the Wake County system) really was a beacon, a flag around which more and more people were rallying as they saw the positive effects of this," says sociologist Gerald Grant, a professor emeritus at Syracuse University and author of the book "Hope and Despair in the American City: Why There are No Bad Schools in Raleigh."
But some parents grew tired of sending their children off on long bus rides. Others said the policy may have brought whites and blacks together, but it wasn't really helping blacks educationally.
And there are those who say people forgot how bad the bad old days were.
"For folks who were there and lived through it, there's a real sense of a collective forgetting, a collective amnesia," says James Leloudis, a history professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who was in high school when the county system integrated. "There is a kind of tragic disremembering."
Part of the story is that Wake County is increasingly populated by people who did not grow up here and do not feel the tug or burden of that history. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about half of Wake County's residents were born outside North Carolina.
So let's break this down. First, courts kept striking down racially-driven school district schemes, but the geniuses in Wake County circumvented this by calling their scheme economically-driven, and this trick was heralded by liberal community organizers nationwide.
Yet despite the apparent brilliance of this scheme, voters were unable to appreciate their good fortunes. Kids didn't like being stuck on a bus for an hour, parents didn't like PTA meetings on the other side of the city, and minority children were still not matching white peers on performance. The whole scheme was wasting money, time, fuel, and resources, all for very little gain.
And then outsiders moved to Raleigh with their silly ideas of attending the school nearest home. Impressionable young black families, who don't harbor resentment from the 1950s, are being convinced that forced busing is a stupid idea. Middle age NAACP activists are the true voice of the black community and know what is best for these naïve young blacks.
This is what the Associated Press calls an informative news report about a complex issue.
But it wasn't done yet! No article on race would be complete without a random shot at tea parties:
A columnist for The News & Observer in Raleigh recently called Margiotta and Tedesco "a couple of carpetbagging Northerners." And Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker referred to the board majority as "people who are not from the area, who don't share our values," and announced the formation of a group to ensure that any new student assignment plan doesn't violate the state constitutional guarantee of a sound education.
The NAACP's Barber admits busing supporters were caught napping last fall. But with five seats - including Margiotta's - up for grabs next year, they are determined to keep up the heat to counter what "the anti-diversity, right-wing, tea party-sympathizing, resegregationist caucus is doing in Wake County."
That's right, folks. If you think it's pointless to make a black student sit on a bus for an hour to attend a school miles away from friends and family, you're a right-wing bigot.
The AP did not quote one single black voter who disagreed with the NAACP. It didn't cite any polling data on how local minorities felt, and it didn't share any facts on how ineffective the scheme has been.
How kind of the AP to care so much about the plight of poor minorities in North Carolina. Perhaps when the news wire gets done propping up liberal activist groups, it can return to reporting on actual news from that state - like say, perhaps, the ongoing investigation against former governor Mike Easley, which the AP has all but ignored in recent months.
Since the local affairs of North Carolina are of so much interest to readers nationwide, it would only make sense to report on all of them.
Or do nationwide readers only need to hear about the NAACP's grasp at relevance?