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Guest Editorial: Gov. McCrory needs to call Bob Brown

Guest Editorial: Gov. McCrory needs to call Bob Brown
April 28
05:35 2016

When you reflect on the low point North Carolina is mired in for passing a law striking down Charlotte’s L.G.B.T. anti-discrimination ordinance, Mr. Robert J. “Bob” Brown of High Point is probably not the first person that comes to mind.

Neither most of the Tar Heel state’s high brows nor its NASCAR enthusiasts with names like Cletus, Crystal, and Dale may have heard of Mr. Brown, but they have heard the concise but astute observation of George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Surely, however, N.C.’s Republican Gov. Pat McCrory has heard of Mr. Brown, a Republican insider who has often been written up as the most powerful behind-the-scenes black powerbroker since Booker T. Washington. Mr. Brown, 80 – through his public relations firm, B&C Associates International, which is headquartered a few miles from where his grandparents raised him – for more than half a century, has advised some of the world’s most powerful people, to include having served as domestic policy advisor to President Richard Nixon, Martin Luther King Jr., President Nelson Mandela, President John F. Kennedy, and Maya Angelou; but, in addition, this self-effacing and soft-spoken master diplomat and negotiator has had the ear of corporate America’s one percenters, often on the world’s Augusta National-like golf courses.

Now the “What if.”

What if the sponsors of House Bill 2 and Gov. Pat McCrory had remembered N.C.’s center stage role in the past where civil and human rights are concerned? If so, they would have thought of what Mr. Brown said to the Board of Directors of F. W. Woolworth when the Tar Heel State was in eye of the storm of societal change ushered in on February 1, 1960, when NC A&T students stood up against unlawful activity and sat down at the Greensboro Woolworth lunch counter.

In an interview recorded recently by the Smithsonian Institution, Mr. Brown recalled what he said: “I told them that they needed to change and that there was a change coming and they needed to get with it and have their thing, stay in front of it, so that they could remain a viable entity in America, and indeed, in the world, if they wanted to do that.”

Not only was Mr. Brown hired by F. W. Woolworth as principal adviser to guide them through the minefields they’d created as segregationists, High Point’s first black policeman facilitated them and other Fortune 100 corporations to address their most perplexing business risks and maximize their profits – grounded on having a maximally diverse workforce and treating all employees and customers with respect and fairness.

The metro Raleigh, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and Charlotte areas are the virtual buckle of The Sunbelt. Then, according to last week’s New Yorker, faster than you can say “condemned to repeat it,” executives at 80 companies – including Apple, Pfizer, Microsoft, and Marriott – signed a public letter to Governor McCrory, urging him to repeal House Bill 2.

Not only does House Bill 2 eliminate L.G.B.T. protections, but it also does away with key components of the civil rights agenda which Mr. Brown helped to shape. HB 2 prevents local governments from enacting nondiscriminatory employment policies, takes away citizens’ right to sue for employment discrimination based on race, sex, religion, and it prohibits cities from adopting a minimum wage higher than the state’s minimum wage or requiring other employment benefits.

HB 2 has put N.C. is on its heels, stuck it in the tar of an outdated value system. In the manner of speaking used by President Ronald Reagan – the standard bearer of the modern Republican Party -who said famously, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” I say, “Mr. N.C. Governor Pat McCrory, give Mr. Bob Brown a call!”

Dr. Bill Turner is the guest editorial writer. He called Winston-Salem home for many years. Reach him at bill-turner@nullcomcast.net.

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Wali Pitt

Wali Pitt

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