BY SONJA NICHOLS
Published by News Observer https://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/article244809417.html
Recently, columnist Gene Nichol alleged in this opinion section that the Republican-led General Assembly is waging “the stoutest war against African Americans seen since the Jim Crow era.”
I’m a Black woman born to teenage parents. I lived in public housing. My mother and father abused drugs. My little brother has been in and out of prison his entire life, beginning with a teenage conviction for smoking marijuana.
I’m a poster child for the group the Democratic Party has claimed to fight for since 1964.
In the decades since, Black voters have gifted Democrats near-universal support every election. Without 90% support from Black voters, Democratic candidates would have no viable path to power.
What do we have to show for 50 years of loyalty?
Children who look like me still can’t get the same education as Nichol. Teenagers who look like my brother cycle in and out of jail, disqualified from decent housing or basic jobs that might let them reset their lives.
Democrats blame their decades of failed promises on Republicans who, according to Nichol, embrace a “muscular agenda of racism.” Vote for us this time, Democrats say, and we’ll finally make progress.
I have a different perspective, which is why I’m a Black woman running to join the Republican majority in the North Carolina Senate.
I don’t need gatekeepers like Nichol telling me what Republicans stand for. The truth is the Republican-led legislature has opened more opportunities for the Black community in the last 10 years than Democrats did in the previous 40 years.
Take Opportunity Scholarships, which Republicans created in 2013. These state-funded grants help poor children who usually look like me get out of failing inner-city schools and into private schools like the one Nichol was privileged enough to attend.
These grants are a lifeline, especially for school systems going online for the year. For households without the privilege of working from home, internet accessibility, or affordable childcare, remote learning is simply not a feasible long-term option.
The Democratic Party, led by Gov. Roy Cooper, has fought to abolish Opportunity Scholarships for years. The brutal irony is that if Black voters give Democrats power, they’ll abolish the very program that empowers Black children to get a private education.
Consider also the N.C. Promise program, which guarantees $500 tuition at two universities serving large populations of Black students. The same Republicans whom Democrats call “racist” created N.C. Promise in 2016.
This type of tuition support is a Godsend to families who can’t afford the college education Nichol received. A quality education is one of the best ways for children to get out of poverty and live a fulfilling life.
Speaking of fulfilling lives, I can’t help but imagine how different my little brother’s might have been had Republican-passed criminal justice reforms been available to him years ago.
In the 1990s, North Carolina Democrats extended mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, including marijuana. Gov. Roy Cooper even wrote some of those laws. Republicans undid those disastrous policies, opening up new opportunities for people of color caught up in the justice system at a young age.
For decades, Democrats have told the Black community that Republicans want to keep them down.
But the evidence shows just the opposite. Under Republican policies, Black unemployment is down; Black graduation rates are up; the number of Black students earning advanced degrees is up; Black income is up; and poverty is down.
I’m a Black Republican woman, and I’m running to join the group that embraces concrete progress over failed promises.
Sonja Nichols is running for the N.C. Senate in Dist. 37 covering southeastern Mecklenburg County.
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