With but minor corrections and some clarifications made during re-tying, what follows below is a replication of an electronic communication sent to my NC House (Nelson Dollar) and Senate (Tamara Barringer) representatives, with copy to Democratic and Republican leadership in both the NC House (Speaker Thom Tillis and Democratic Leader Larry Hall) and Senate (President Pro-Tem Phil Berger and Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt). Included in this posting are links to references not contained in the original e-mail. The issue raised is whether NC’s recently enacted Voter ID Law (now the subject of a federal lawsuit) is part of a continuing history of discriminatory legislation and policy that may represent something far more serious than an obstruction of civil rights.
North Carolina has a long history of discriminatory behavior and actions towards those of African descent. Slavery, Jim Crow laws, and eugenics were predicated on beliefs of racial inferiority supported by over two hundred years of bogus and slanted research known as ‘race biology’. Such slanted research has contributed to ingrained biases (e.g., shooter bias, hiring bias, intellectual inferiority, etc) and eliminationist behaviors (eugenics, Jim Crow laws) against those of African descent. The result has been that African-Americans experience a disproportionately high level of adverse socio-economic conditions including poverty and income inequality. Actions of elected representatives, both past and present, have contributed to, and continue to exacerbate, this situation Today the idea of race is understood by most natural and social scientists as being an unsound concept thus eliminating the underlying, and perverse, justifications relegating African-Americans to a lower level of humanity and citizenship. Poverty carries with it a mortality rate and those of African descent have a notably shortened life expectancy versus their white counterparts. The causes of premature death in African Americans are consistent with factors associated with adverse socio-economic conditions. Rather than work to correct this injustice, in recent years elected officials in North Carolina have continued to pursue both discriminatory policy and legislative actions adversely affecting its African American population, actions that have garnered adverse national attention, e.g., Wake County School Board officials (now voted out of office) dismantling diversity programs and the NC legislature passing what has been considered to be perhaps the most restrictive voter law since 1965 (now the subject of a federal lawsuit) that disproportionately affects those of African descent. With our current knowledge base, and as such policies and legislation are being systemically applied and can be directly tied to loss of life in a historically discriminated segment of our citizenry, it is felt that NC’s voter law becomes more than a civil rights matter; perhaps meeting conditions of being a crime against humanity. This perspective is being shared with civil rights organizations and experts in the field of human rights. Minimally the behavior is held to be immoral and shameful.
We have known of each other for several years and have met on various occasions. I write you as my elected representatives to our state government, with copy to House and Senate leadership, regarding NC’s recently enacted voter law that has become the subject of a federal lawsuit. To briefly summarize my background, I obtained a doctorate at the Medical College University of Arizona where my work was accepted for publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, I went on to direct research and development for a publicly-held pharmaceutical corporation as a corporate officer, was founder and CEO of my own successful drug development corporation in NC (recognized by both the Cary and Greater Raleigh Chambers of Commerce) and have been an adjunct professor at Campbell University. I continue to follow the the rapidly and exponentially growing body of scientific knowledge that helps us understand our origins. You both know my wife whose work in various charitable causes earned her recognition as both a Wake County and North Carolina Volunteer of the Year, as well as having been a past Chair of the Cary Chamber of Commerce, and a past candidate for Mayor of Cary, one of our state’s larger municipalities. I left my corporate and academic pursuits several years ago to devote time to, and care for, my wife who, as you know, was stricken with serious illness. In recent months I have found myself increasingly involved in her care following a serious complication of her treatment. But one task I have had on my plate, and now have the time to address, is sharing my perspective on NC’s recently enacted voter law.
Although NC’s voter law disproportionately affects many demographic groups that tend to vote for the Democratic party, the group that will be the subject of this correspondence is our African-American population, a historically discriminated population in our state. It is importat to note that the push in recent times for such voter ID laws has been driven almost exclusively (if not entirely) by the Republican party, with an exceptionally small level of actual in-person voter fraud being reported in NC and across the nation, and where such laws disproportionately affect blocks of voters that tend to vote for the Democratic party. Where, in my opinion, this law becomes more than a civil rights matter (or simply a ploy to affect voter turnout favoring a political party), is that it is propagating a long-standing and well-documented history of discriminatory laws and policies in NC that were supported by centuries of false portrayals of ‘racial inferiority’ of the African American population. These false and damaging portrayals have contributed to adverse socio-economic conditions for this population that in turn have resulted in premature loss of life as evidenced by a staggering gap in life expectancy between African-Americans and their white counterparts. In other words, the NC voter law is but another in a history of enacted laws that is contributing to an unnecessary and preventable loss of life in a targeted and historically discriminated segment of our citizenry.
Although most (and I regrettably emphasize most) hold slavery to have been an abomination of human rights and a dark period in the history of our nation, it has been the false portrayals of our African-American population over a period spanning hundreds of years as being an inferior form of humanity, that has been so damaging (John Ridley, screenwriter for the critically acclaimed film, 12 Years a Slave, has drawn reference to slavery being predicated on beliefs of racial inferiority). Such a protrayal has contributed to deeply ingrained biases that have created disproportionately lower socio-economic conditions that in turn have adversely affected their survival. Historically, the term ‘race’ was not applied to human beings until the mid-1700’s through an exploitation of science known as ‘race biology’. The work originated in Europe and spread to the US by the 1800’s. From the beginning, this bogus work defined groups of human beings, i.e., races, in term of superiority and inferiority. As but one example, Morgan’s skull volume measurements in the 1800’s led to claims of intellectual inferiority in the ‘Negroid’ race – a false conclusion that persisted for over 100 years until it was shown that Morgan either subconsciously or intentionally altered measurements. Such bogus work was used as justification for such things a slavery, Jim Crow laws and, horrifically, eugenics in the 20th Century – the US programs being influenced by the German school of thought. In Germany, as but one example, teachers were required to report students suspected of having defective genes so that its society could be purged of elements considered to weaken it. In that country eugenics played out as genocide; here in the US it played out as 30,000 forced sterilizations with those of African descent being one of the targeted populations. NC has been cited as having had one the the largest and most aggressive programs in the US sterilizing more than 7600 individuals, 99% being female of which 60% were of African descent. And yet in June 2012, state legislators in NC passed over a proposal to compensate surviving victims of such a heinous act – compensation that has finally been put into place over the remaining objections of some legislators.
Where we are today in our knowledge is that the idea of race is understood by most natural and social scientists to be an unsound concept; it is largely held to be an artificial and man-made construct that persists today simply as a way to group individuals having similar characteristics. Increasingly sophisticated DNA studies, and the sequencing and mapping of the human genome provide no evidence that we code as separate subspecies (races). In fact, it is known that elements of the human genome are broadly shared throughout both the animal and plant kingdoms – a genomic backbone that gave rise to an exceptionally broad level of diversity across all life (if Darwin could only have lived to see these discoveries that support his views on evolution; or Thaddeus Stevens who was forced to argue for equality under the law versus true equality between men during the debate on the 13th Amendment). Yet the damaging effects of over 200 years of pseudo-secience and false portrayals of those of African descent, and where government officials have themselves participated, have created and propagated adverse socio-economic conditions that adversely affect the life span of African-American citizens while this population is nothing more than an expression of naturally occurring diversity. In short, the actions of elected officials have clearly contributed to disproportionately premature and preventable death amongst African-Americans. And rather than working to correct this injustice, elected officials in our state continue to put forth damaging legislation and policies that have drawn national attention – consider the actions of the Wake County School Board in recent times to dismantle long-standing diverstiy policies in education that drew national TV coverage including scathing comments from a former US president.
And the indifference of the current NC government, and the Republican party in general, to the plight of its African American citizens is further supported by its refusal to expand Medicaid under the ACA, an expansion that would address the premature loss of life in African-Americans. In the US there is a crescent shaped region running through the Gulf states and up through NC and beyond known as the ‘Black Belt’ where there is a high concentration of those being of African descent. This population is marked by acute poverty, rural exodus, inadequate education programs, low educational attainment, poor healthcare, substandard housing and high levels of crime and unemployment – African-Americans are disproportionately represented. A 2011 study conducted by the Columbia University School of Public Health estimated that in 2000 the US prematurely lost 875,000 of its citizens due to a cluster of social factors bound up with poverty and income inequality. This number almost certainly increased during the burgeoning poverty associated with the recent economic collapse, perhaps by an additional 350,000. And as Maya Wiley (President and Founder of the Center for Social Inclusion) has pointed out, the recent economic downturn disproportionately affected African-Americans. A recent NY Times article showed that in the 26 Republican-dominated states not participating in the expansion of Medicaid (NC being one) are home to a disproportionate share of the nation’s poorest uninsured residents – 8 million will be stranded without insurance. American blacks comprise only 32% of the eligible poor in states enacting the expansion (the lowest of any other ‘race’ group) yet comprise 68% of the eligible poor in states not enacting the expansion (the highest of any other ‘race’ group). Research published from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School estimated that in 2000 the life expectancy gap between white and African American males was a staggering 6.6 years (although closing in recent years there still remains a considerable gap of several years). The causes of this lower life expectancy are attributable to conditions such high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, strokes (all can be the result of, and exacerbated by, poverty and are treatable with access to medical care) – stress response to racism has also been cited as a possible contributor to this gap. And yet NC refused expansion of Medicaid under the ACA, an expansion fully funded by the federal government through 2016 and no less than 90% afterwards. Additionally, gun violence alone has been shown to reduce the life expectancy of the African-American male by a full year, most frequently homicide, as opposed to 5 months for white American males, most frequent suicide. Again such effects are driven by adverse socio-economic conditions stemming from legislation and discriminatory practices that were predicated on long-standing falsehoods about, and resultant biases against, this segment of our citizenry – laws that have been put into place and policies carried out by elected officials.
A recent Raleigh N&O article reported that African-Americans comprise 23% of registered NC voters, 29% of early voters, 30% of those who cast out-of-precinct ballots, 34% of the 318,000 registered voters without state-issued IDs, and 41 percent of those who used same day registration. These statistics are troubling when examining published findings (national level) last year by the Brennan Center for Justice regarding adults without voter ID:
18% 18-to-24 year olds
And it is well-known how these demographic groups tended to vote in the 2012 general election. What the NC voter law does is to place additional obstacles before the African American poor in being able to vote to better their lives and reverse the damaging effects of past discriminatory treatment.
My belief is that this matter, that is tied to unnecessary and preventable loss of life in a historically discriminated segment of our citizenry, elevates beyond simply being a civil rights issue. We know far too much these days to permit this to continue.
I will be sharing these perspectives with at least two prominent civil rights organizations. Additionally, I intend to engage in dialogue with experts in the field of human rights; I will be exploring whether the continued pursuit of such laws (being systematically applied and tied to loss of life in a historically discriminated population) might meet the conditions of being a crime against humanity. I can not speak for these civil rights organizations, but as a citizen I do feel compelled to share my perspectives on what I feel is a continuing atrocity in our country that is being exploited for political gain at the expense of human life. I understand that this NC law is the subject of a federal lawsuit and that you may not wish to respond to this correspondence. However, should you, and as these communications would be in the public record, I intend to share our dialog and will be posting an article on this matter.