There are 435 elections this fall in the United State for the House of Representatives. North Carolina’s 11th district will be unique in at least one way – candidates will be talking about reparations. That’s because Asheville city council voted earlier this month to start the process for reparations to the city’s Black community.
The two major party candidates in 11th – which consists of all of Western North Carolina – have vastly different views on reparations.
Asheville is the largest city in the 11th, and its leaders passed a resolution July 14, that creates a commission to establish what reparations should look like for the city’s Black community. Republican congressional candidate Madison Cawthorn was quick to condemn it, believing it would divide, rather than heal the country.
“The reason why I think this is so offensive and so dangerous is because it's saying that a generation of people, an entire civilization of people who have never owned a slave, who have never even been slaves, are now being put into this category to where they think they need to have a hand me down.”
Cawthorn, a 24-year-old real estate investor from Henderson County, says his fiancé is half African American, and their children will be bi-racial, and that he doesn’t want them growing up with an ‘entitlement mindset.’ He also thinks the price paid by Americans during the Civil War is reparation enough.
“600,000 Americans gave their life to free slaves and you're going to tell me that's not enough? You know, I know so many incredible African American men and women who are the best of our entire country, who have risen above the hatred and things that they have to deal with. I’m not gonna say that there’s not racism in this country. I don't believe that reparations are necessary because I believe America already paid the price for their freedom.”
Asheville’s not the first government to propose reparations – the California Assembly passed a similar bill weeks before Asheville, and a task force in Durham presented a list of recommendations to the city council a week after.
Cawthorn goes a step further, and calls the concept of reparations itself racist. Cawthorn uses that term also for his Democratic opponent Moe Davis, and all while liberals.
“White liberals are the most racist people I've ever met in my entire life. They define everything by race. They want people to be able to get into college with lower grades and lower school scores simply because they are African American. That's insane. That is saying, ‘Hey, you know what? Don't work so hard, because you're African American, because you probably just can't do it.’ Are you kidding me? That's the most racist thing I've ever heard, as I just said earlier. Any liberals listening to this right now, you are a racist.”
Davis, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, understandably took issue with Cawthorn’s assertions, and fired back with a combination of experience and education.
“I'm the one that spent four years teaching at a historically Black college and university, at Howard University. I'm the one that went three years to a historically Black university, to law school. So I've got seven years in the HBCU community. My opponent was homeschooled, never went to college, never went to law school, has never worked outside of this area.”
Davis said he supports the notion of reparations, calling it warranted based on centuries of discrimination directed at Black Americans.
“You can't deny the fact that we kidnapped people and brought them here to this country and treated them like we would treat cattle, they were bought and sold. Their labor was largely responsible for building a lot of this country. And it wasn't until 1865 in the Civil War that, you know, when we did fight a war to try to settle that issue, that didn't end it. Racism didn't end with the Civil War.”
Davis said he would prefer reparations to be a federal issue, similar to the Americans With Disabilities Act, rather than a patchwork of state and local regulations. He does, however, support Asheville’s efforts to address the issue on its own, in advance of any state or national precedent.
“I think that the reparations bill that Asheville, the council, passed is just saying Asheville is going to try to treat everyone fairly, and make sure that everybody gets an equal shot. If that’s racist, then my opponent’s right – then I must be a racist because I think everybody should be treated fairly.”
Cawthorn, a small-government conservative, said that despite disagreeing with the reparations resolution passed by Asheville, he supports the right of local governments to act on such issues on their own, saying that the federal government should stay out of the matter altogether.
The November 3 General Election is less than 100 days away.