The North Carolina Republican Party is in trouble – again – for letting their racism show out in the open.
Just a week after two white Republican members in the state House had to resign their leadership positions because of racist comments made on the House floor, the NCGOP tweeted out – on their official Twitter account – a disgusting statement about Rev. William Barber II.
Barber, who is perhaps best known by many as one of the leaders of the Moral Monday movement, was on his way to Durham on Thursday, June 1, for an appearance with Sen. Bernie Sanders at the “Rally to Raise the Wage” campaign, which calls for raising the federal minimum wage to $17 an hour over five years.
Ahead of Barber and Sanders’ appearance, the NCGOP sent a tweet that read: “Socialist Bernie Sanders is teaming up with poverty pimp William Barber to hold a rally with NC Democrats in Durham today. While @NCDemParty embraces Sanders’ push to make us more like his beloved USSR, Republicans work to protect the good old timeless values of the USA.”
Later that night, Barber sent a tweet in response saying, “Never fall for the diversion. Keep the focus on the issue of living wages that impacts 2 million low wage workers of every race in NC. We’re fighting for all of them. Forward together!”
He then spoke with The News & Observer about his thoughts on being called a “poverty pimp” by someone at the NC Republican Party, telling the newspaper that he would like to sit down and talk with the person who wrote the tweet.
“I’m not interested in a Twitter fight, or calling folk names,” Barber told The News & Observer in a phone interview. “People are dying. Poverty is killing people. We can’t afford to ignore this.”
It’s not clear what the comment may have been in reference to, but Barber said if it was about how he lets people at Poor People’s Campaign rallies give testimonies about their struggles with joblessness, poverty and lack of health care, then it should be a lesson to all politicians that they must connect more with the poor, not less.
“The reason we put real people on the stage is because this is about real people,” Barber said. “And they’re white, Black, Latino – they’re every race, every creed, every color.
“I often wish that when politicians, when they debate bills, they would have to do that in front of the people who are being impacted. Like, 500 of them, right there in front of them. That would be a different conversation.”
The NCGOP’s tweet did not go unnoticed – it resulted in a serious backlash in state political circles.
Jonah Garson, the first vice chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party, called the tweet a “dog whistle” and “racist BS.”
State Sen. Michael Garrett wrote that the tweet was “beneath the dignity of our state’s public discourse.”
“There are only a few terms they could have picked that would have been more demeaning. It’s incredibly diminishing of his work,” House Minority Leader Robert Reives told The N&O. “It’s amazing they could reduce all his work to one of the most diminishing terms that could be used for Black men in this country’s history.”
Referencing comments made by white state Rep. Jeff McNeely (Iredell) on May 17, when he asked Black Democratic Rep. Abe Jones (Wake) if he would have been able to attend Harvard University had he not been “an athlete or a minority,” Reives said that he believes the NCGOP’s tweet “is even worse than Jeff McNeely’s comments.”
He also told The News & Observer to “emphasize how angry I am,” and described the usage of the word “pimp” as “pointed and racist.”
The tweet was live for more than 24 hours and was deleted at some point over the following weekend. The party did not issue a statement regarding the tweet, nor did they explain why they deleted it or sent it in the first place. Party spokesperson Jeff Moore did not respond to media requests for comment.