Kristine Kaiser: What does Barber have in mind?

Jan. 03, 2014 @ 09:43 PM

The Rev. William Barber recently announced that Moral Mondays would continue when the General Assembly goes back in session in May of 2014. The idea is to protest the regressive policies of our Republican lawmakers.
As a result of the rallies, a national spotlight came down on North Carolina, and the divided state was the focus of much attention. Several of the General Assembly’s 2013 laws are now being contested in the courts.
Without a doubt, some credit goes to the NAACP’s President Rev. William Barber for the judicial challenges. His movement brought faulty legislation to the public’s eye.
Rev. Barber’s concerns are many: equality, unemployment, women’s rights, voting rights, health care, education, and the environment. Many people consider him the leader of the new N.C. progressive movement. He says that the genuine test of moral legislation is if it does the most good for the most people. “We” is a crucial word for him.
What’s next for the Moral Monday movement? Will the group continue to use civil disobedience to make its points? Will the public be sympathetic to its aims? Or will the Moral Monday protesters be perceived as old hat, professional troublemakers?
The latter is a possibility if strong racial fires are rekindled. I’ve heard Rev. Barber speak, and his speech is passionate. It is reminiscent of early civil rights leaders’ oratory; he asks for justice as if to be freed from the bonds of an oppressor. Rev. Barber also reflects on the aftermath of slavery, the 1960s civil rights era, and now what he calls “the third reconstruction.” The third reconstruction is backlash from Obama’s presidency.
I sometimes feel that his language is too strong. His rhetoric is too charged, and it seems to become more electric as time goes on. Barber’s success is apparent; he has inspired and moved people to action. Yet, his very success could be defeating. His own preened feathers might get in the way.
The Moral Monday group will soon fail if it becomes too deeply devoted to the issues of race. While new voter laws do suppress the black vote, Barber must try to lead a diverse coalition. The massive voter laws also suppress the votes of the young and elderly.  Generally, they are bad laws, making it harder for all people to vote. They do not serve democracy.
The Moral Monday leader must heed his words. The Moral Monday movement is not about blacks. It is not about whites. It is mostly a movement of hearty concerned citizens who are protesting GOP overreach and extremism in the state. It is a group of activist North Carolinians.
There are few outsiders. Still, Rev. Barber recently let on that N.C. Moral Mondays would become a model for other states. Here again, I believe that Rev. Barber’s success is going to his head a bit. Barber would not be the leader of just one state, his own home state. He would spread his wings and also his ambition to other states.
The effect would take away from North Carolina, its important public policy issues, and its peculiar political divide. Rev. Barber seems to be putting his own increasing influence first. It takes a special type to be satisfied with limited personal kudos. It takes an atypical kind to walk straight amidst national fanfare. Barber’s character will matter.

Kristine Kaiser is a writer living in Kernersville. Contact her for comments at: Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.