Perhaps in a moment of frustration, Robert Pittenger stated that the protesters in Charlotte “hated white people”. A statement like this, though he has apologized for it since making it, reveals a part of his character that he has kept well concealed over the years. In those unscripted moments when public figures say things they would not normally say we are permitted to look within the façade they present to us and see who they REALLY are, and this particular statement reveals that he lacks the understanding and compassion to represent a large number of his constituents who are black. He has been a frequent contributor to the Editorial Page of this newspaper and has presented readers with an agenda that is reflective of the views of today’s Republican Party, views that portray the poor as being responsible for their condition, views that blame one political party for all the ills of this nation while exonerating the other party of all responsibility (even though the genesis of our present ills lie at the feet of the previous administration), views that denigrate our president while praising those who have opposed him. And some of those protesters in Charlotte are his constituents, for, while some may have come from as far away as Ferguson, Missouri, some arrived in Charlotte from Iredell County, from Mecklenburg County, from Union County. Some of these people may even have, in the past, voted for Mr. Pittenger, or at least turned to him for the help only a man in Mr. Pittenger’s position can afford a petitioner.
The origins of the protests in Charlotte extend to a time long before the shooting on Monday of Keith Lamont Scott by a Charlotte police officer, even before the murder of Trayvon Martin by an “overly-enthusiastic” Neighborhood Watch leader in Florida; but the origin can be seen in the similarity between these two victims of racism. After all, both men are African Americans, a condition to which they were born and from which, living in America, they are unable to escape. Representative Robert Pittenger’s statement reveals what is today called “tone deafness”, signifying his lack of understanding of, and lack of empathy for, a group of people for whom he should demonstrate both understanding and empathy, for they are people whom he represents, daily (when he is not on vacation), in our nation’s capital and they are the ones who should be frustrated, both with his performance as their Representative, and with the direction their state has taken in opposition to the attempts by Charlotte to be an inclusive and progressive city and contrary to the decisions in our Courts that demand equal justice and representation for all.
The state of North Carolina has, over the past few years, taken actions to reduce the rights of specific demographics within the state. The Voter ID law, which was enacted shortly after a conservative Supreme Court eviscerated the Voting Rights Act of 1965, took the state back to an era that existed before the 1960s, in which blacks were prohibited from voting (at least those who had the audacity to approach a polling place). The HB-2 fiasco, which is costing our state billions, was enacted earlier this year in Special Session to further erode the rights of nationally protected groups. All of this has been done with the consenting silence of Representative Pittenger for, in his frequent letters to the editor, has he commiserated about the negative effects of these two pieces of legislation, even though they negatively affect many of his own constituents? Has Mr. Pittenger presented before our national legislature any bills which would unequivocally and irrevocably guarantee the equal right of all Americans to vote, or the equal protection, under the Constitution, of all Americans, regardless of their differences? His apology tells us that he knows that what he said was wrong. The mere fact of his having uttered the offending remarks says a great deal more about his character.