America’s chattering classes are yakking up a storm as election year 2022 looms. It will be a big year with a U.S. Senate race in North Carolina as well as the U.S. House, the General Assembly and a host of local offices.
Queues are already forming — some on the downlow — for the 2024 Presidential race, and to top it all, the redistricting that comes after every U.S. Census will change the political landscape in many of those contests.
Local analyst, commentator and activist Troy Williams published an op-ed in the Fayetteville Observer earlier this month. Using 2020 census data, Williams points out that Fayetteville’s self-identified white population has declined from 64% in 1960 to 34% in 2020, with 11% of that decline in the last decade, meaning that Fayetteville is now a majority black city.
He also notes that our community has more black elected officials, including our mayor, a majority of the city council and local judges than in recent memory.
He asks the question, is “white flight” affecting Fayetteville?
The U.S. Census does not answer that question.
No agreed upon definitions of black or white exist — we all identify ourselves.
And to muddy the waters further, the U.S. Census Bureau has more boxes to check than in earlier censuses including the 1960 one, so we are comparing apples and oranges about who is moving and much less why.
The reality is that there are probably as many reasons for moving as there are people making that decision.
Williams rightly observes that the people who are moving, for whatever reasons, are taking their assets and taxable property with them.
That means that without comparable or more resources moving in, Fayetteville’s tax base is reduced which translates into diminished city services.
On that point, he challenges local leaders to listen to the people they represent.
“Do they understand that many middle-class families, black and white, have similar goals: newer houses, better schools for their children and attractive environments?”
To that list, I would add fair and effective law enforcement, all of which goes to the point that we are more alike in our goals and desires than we are different.
Williams asserts that with elective and appointive authority comes responsibility, and he is dead right on that. Politics has always been and is now a blood sport, not for the faint of heart.
In addition, widely discussed political divisions of recent years coupled with ridiculously low salaries have repelled would-be candidates at all levels.
That said, it is incumbent on Fayetteville residents — and every other community — to recruit, support and elect the most responsible, reliable and honest among us to seek public office, including ourselves. Running for public office is not rocket science and serving is a balancing act between competing interests of different constituencies, frustrating and sometimes difficult, generally with no one “right” decision — just many, many shades of gray. In short, neither is easy and both are necessary.
Democracy, if it is to prevail and there are real threats against it at the moment, demands people of good will and of all colors participate in the political process as candidates, supporters and voters for contests from the Presidency on down to local offices.
Failure to do so means we have abdicated our responsibility to participate in self-governance, and we will get the government our abdication deserves.
Chances are excellent we are not going to like it.