The Moral Monday movement

Larry Sutton Contributing columnist

January 12, 2014

Let me start with the premise that North Carolina can never attain its fullest growth until all its citizens receive absolute justice. Now, isn’t that a noble goal for all of us to strive to achieve? To me, this is as nonpartisan as it gets. This shouldn’t be about Republicans or Democrats. No, this is about basic human dignity.

What’s more basic than health care, than providing quality education, than expanding the right to vote and having a decent job, making a living wage? No one should be doomed to poverty. It was in January 1964 that President Lydon Johnson declared “a war on poverty,” and 50 years later, we are still debating ways to reduce our economic inequalities. So, in some instances, the more things change, the more they stay the same. But things must change in order for all our citizens to receive absolute justice.

However, the change that occurred in our state after the 2010 and 2012 elections, giving Republicans control of the state’s government, was not the change many North Carolinians had in mind. It soon became evident that the Republicans who were poised to govern during the 2013 NC legislative session were not all “mainstream” Republicans, with many adhering to extremist conservative ideology.

Following the inauguration of Republican Governor Pat McCrory in January 2013, he and the Republican-controlled General Assembly moved quickly to implement their conservative agenda, passing a voter ID law, making it harder for citizens to vote. They also implemented policies refusing to expand Medicaid to about 500,000 more people, ending the earned-income tax credit which helps low to middle-income people, ending federal emergency unemployment benefits, and restricting abortion rights.

While these new policies were being enacted during the 2013 legislative session, many people began sounding an alarm, standing up and speaking out against the Republican far-right policy, attacking the poor, women, and black and brown minorities.

By the spring of 2013, North Carolina had given birth to the country’s most visible state-level movement opposing the far-right’s conservative agenda. These weekly protests outside the state Capitol building in Raleigh became known as the Moral Mondays Movement. This movement is a racially diverse coalition of advocacy and community groups including the NAACP, labor unions, environmental groups, abortion rights advocates, teachers, and students. The Moral Monday’s most prominent spokesman is the Rev. William Barber, president of the NC NAACP. In expressing the essence of the NC Moral Monday Movement, Rev. Barbar stated, “There are some things that must be challenged because they are wrong, extreme, and immoral.”

Whether or not the Moral Monday’s mission succeeds will probably depend on the impact the movement has on the state legislature. However, it will continue to seek to touch the hearts and minds of the people with its Feb. 8, 2014 Moral March on Raleigh, serving as a kick off to the 2014 Moral Monday Movement.

The views and opinions on what direction we think our state should be going will differ for a variety of reasons. But overreach to any extreme by any group is dangerous. The focus should be on getting the voters out, not voter suppression. We need more voting not less. The people of North Carolina will ultimately decide the direction we go.