RALEIGH — When North Carolina’s first black lieutenant governor, Mark Robinson, spoke at a U.S. House Judiciary Committee meeting on April 22, he made clear he wasn’t happy about how, in his view, black conservatives — and black Americans in general — were being used as “pawns” in racial games that are more about power than justice.
Robinson’s chief of staff, Conrad Pogorzelski III, told NSJ that Robinson was invited by Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan’s office to speak, and North Carolina Republican Rep. Dan Bishop introduced Robinson and was yielded time by Republican committee members to ask Robinson some questions.
“Am I to believe that black Americans — who have overcome the atrocities of slavery, who were victorious in the civil rights movement, and now sit in the highest levels of this government — could not figure out how to get a free ID to secure their votes?” Robinson said about the Georgia voting law that received pushback and boycotts in part due to its voter ID requirement. “Are you kidding me? The notion that black people must be protected from a free ID to secure their votes is not just insane; it is insulting. And let me tell you something about this. This doesn’t have anything to do with justice, this has everything to do with power.”
To drive his point home, Robinson mentioned how Vice President Kamala Harris, when she made a recent visit to his hometown of Greensboro to visit the site of the Woolworth’s sit-ins, had one notable absence on her invitation list — Clarence Henderson. Henderson, who is one of the four black students seen in the iconic photo of the 1960 sit-in, is a conservative and was a featured speaker for Donald Trump’s reelection at the 2020 Republican National Convention.
“He sat at that counter and endured the suffering and pain to make sure that black voices were heard,” Robinson said. “And why was he left out? Because he’s of a different political persuasion. You might ask why this is so, and I’ll tell you plainly. The goal of some individuals in government is not to hear the voices of black Americans at all; it’s to hear the voices that fit their narratives and ultimately help keep power with one group.”
He said H.R. 1, the Democrats’ major elections bill, is an example of this thirst for power, calling it “despicable” and simply “a wish list” of everything needed to achieve that power. He closed by saying the country needed to “stop playing all these silly games based on race, and please, let’s stop using me as a black man as your pawn — and yes, I said it — to push your agenda.”
Only one day before his speech, another similar fight transpired involving race and voter ID when liberal group Democracy NC commented on an ongoing legal battle over North Carolina’s voter ID law by saying on Twitter, “Yesterday, former NC Sen. (Joel) Ford testified. He was the Black Democratic Sen. who supported the 2018 ID law and the defense is using as a prop for ‘a Black person was involved so that law can’t be racist.’ Which we know is FALSE.”
Republicans immediately jumped on this characterization of Ford and his support for the bill.
“Anyone other than a blind ideologue would consider labeling a human being a ‘prop’ as dehumanizing,” Sen. Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick), the state Senate’s second most powerful member, said in a press release. “The racist character assassination that phony ‘social justice’ groups are launching against an African American former legislator, who is a good man, is despicable. When will people start seeing through their act, which uses race relations as a veil to advance their far-left ideology?”
Since his time in the state Senate, Ford has made clear he no longer aligns with the Democratic Party, telling NSJ in 2019, “What I’m finding is, I’m a person without a party right now. I’m still registered as a Democrat, but the reality is, a lot of my faith beliefs and economic beliefs line up with the Republican Party.”
In 2019, Ford was already out of office, but six Democrats — five of them black and one Lumbee Indian — broke with their party over an abortion-related bill. In response, activists created a site called “Disloyal Democrats” to punish this developing block of swing voters.
This dynamic of largely black men acting as the new swing vote can be seen in neighboring states as well. In South Carolina, Democrat state House Rep. Cezar McKnight told The Associated Press that “Black Democrats tend to be more conservative than white progressives,” when asked why he sponsored a bill to limit transgender surgeries to those over 18 years old. He said this was clear because constituents in his two-thirds-black district have overwhelmingly supported his position.
In addition to Robinson’s testimony in Congress and the controversy over Ford being called a “prop” for supporting a voter ID bill, N.C. Republicans took issue with Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper not acknowledging Robinson during his State of the State address on Monday.
“Gov. Cooper delivered his State of the State speech tonight,” Senate Leader Phil Berger said in a statement. “An indication of how far North Carolina has come is Mark Robinson, our state’s first black Lt. Governor, presiding over tonight’s event. And an indication of how far the North Carolina Democratic Party has to go is the Democratic Governor’s failure to recognize Lt. Gov. Robinson during his speech.”
Bishop agreed with Berger’s statement, responding on social media, “What does it say when Gov. Roy Cooper fails to celebrate the historical significance of Mark Robinson’s election? What does it say, that establishment media play along? I predict that you will not be able to ignore Mark for long.”