Update: 2/6: Gov. Roy Cooper rescinded LaWana Mayfield’s appointment to the NC Human Relations Commission on Wednesday. “The important work of the North Carolina Human Relations Commission needs to continue without distraction from its mission,” William McKinney, the governor’s counsel, wrote Mayfield.
Update, 2/5: N.C. Senate leader Phil Berger and 28 Republican senators called for Gov. Roy Cooper to withdraw his appointment of LaWana Mayfield from the NC Human Relations Commission. Citing this Observer editorial, Berger wrote: “Do you agree that this type of violent, hateful rhetoric has no place in our political discourse, and certainly not on a commission that is intended to promote equality and justice in governmental services?“ (Letter below)
About once a month, Gov. Roy Cooper’s office announces two to three dozen new appointments the governor has made to North Carolina boards and commissions. The appointees come from across the state, and the boards help advise and inform the work of government in Raleigh and elsewhere. Mostly it’s not high-level stuff — no one is working on state budgets or big bills here — but the appointments are still useful. Some important work gets done, local folks get rewarded, and the governor gets the good vibe of being the one doing the rewarding. It is, simply, good politics.
But not always. Among December’s appointments was one that shouldn’t fly under the radar: Charlotte City Council member LaWana Mayfield to the North Carolina Human Relations Commission.
The 22-member commission promotes equality in several areas, including housing, education and justice. It’s one of the state’s higher-profile boards, investigating housing complaints and providing critical advocacy for several programs involving community relations. On the surface, Mayfield’s appointment makes sense, as she is a fierce advocate on the City Council for equality. She is better known across the state, however, for two regrettable outbursts — a Facebook post questioning whether the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were real, and a tweet calling police “homegrown terrorist(s).”
The latter, sent on March 28, said: “Being black in America under #45 (Donald Trump) has created homegrown terrorist wearing blue uniforms.” Mayfield has refused to back down from either.
Mayfield’s perspectives on 9/11, while loony, shouldn’t be of much concern to the governor. But her remarks on police are counterproductive to the relationship-building mission of the Human Relations Commission, and her appointment sends the wrong message to law enforcement and others.
Mayfield certainly has the right to say whatever she wants — however offensive it might be to some. There’s also a case to be made that her harsh view of some law enforcement might provide a valuable perspective to the board. “LaWana Mayfield is the longest serving city council member of the state’s largest city,” Cooper spokesperson Ken Eudy told the editorial board. “We don’t require the thousands of appointees to state boards and commissions to have the same viewpoints and opinions as the governor.”
But this isn’t about having different perspectives. After all, the clash of contrary viewpoints is vital for any real progress on issues. Surely, though, there are other voices across the state who can express the uneasiness and distrust some communities have with police, yet do it without the kind of bomb-throwing that shuts down critical conversations instead of moving them forward.
Mayfield’s appointment sends another troubling message. It normalizes the kind of inflammatory rhetoric that increasingly pollutes public discourse. It says you’re fine saying destructive things so long as you’re on our team. We already were disappointed at the timid response to Mayfield last year from her fellow Democrats in Charlotte. We’ve had enough of that the past couple years with Republicans in Washington.
Cooper should give this appointment another look, instead of looking the other way.
February 5, 2019