Pondering What Progress Has Been Made: The Week In Review From WFAE
Nearly a year after George Floyd died at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, we're still talking about the same things: police violence, systemic racism and how we help our country heal.
The first steps toward that came this week when a jury found Derek Chauvin guilty on all three charges in the death of Floyd, the most serious of which was second-degree murder. Chauvin's sentencing will probably come in June, but a country that had been bracing for the verdict exhaled a sigh of relief.
"I hope this verdict brings some measure of closure," Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles tweeted, echoing sentiments from many area leaders on the verdict.
One day later, however, it seemed like we might be back at the beginning, as another Black man was shot and killed by a sheriff's deputy who was serving a warrant -- this time in North Carolina's Elizabeth City. Protesters have said nothing has changed with policing and race. Seven sheriff's deputies are on leave as the incident is investigated. Per North Carolina law, police body-camera video cannot be released until a court orders it. Everyone from the county sheriff to Gov. Roy Cooper have said we need to see the video.
Issues surrounding race have shadowed everything in our country since its founding, experts have said, and we are still reckoning with the reverberations. This past week we also recognized a mixed milestone with race at its heart: the 50th anniversary of the Swann v. Charlotte Board of Education ruling. That U.S. Supreme Court decision led to the desegregation of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools through busing and ushered in a rare successful case of integration in the country.
But the progress was undone just decades later, and WFAE's Ann Doss Helms had a story about those who were shaped by desegregation and still carry the legacy with them.
When it comes to progress, it's unclear how much has been made in our ongoing attempt to end gun violence. This week, a 7-year-old boy was killed in Hickory when police say someone shot into the car his mother was driving in an apparent case of road rage. A 23-year-old man was arrested one day later.
And we're still learning more about the mass shooting in York County, South Carolina, two weeks ago where police say a former NFL player killed six people before taking his own life. Newly released search warrants show that police identified the accused shooter because he dropped his cellphone at the scene of the crime.
His brain has been offered to the Concussion Legacy Foundation to determine if he suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. CTE has been known to cause personality changes, but the head of the foundation says it's not an excuse for violent behavior.
"People often see CTE used as an excuse for behavior. But the reality is that's not why the research is being done," Chris Nowinski told WFAE's Sarah Delia. "The research is being done partially because multiple people have been involved in similar situations who have been diagnosed with CTE, and there might be a connection between the disease and this sort of behavior. And if that's the case, this is a public health problem. And therefore we need to understand what is exactly happening here so we can protect and prevent the next one."
Meanwhile, amid all this trying news, we're still dealing with the pandemic. Mecklenburg County and many area organizations have started offering walk-up COVID-19 vaccine clinics. Demand for the vaccine has dropped so significantly that one Charlotte infectious disease doctor calls it "super concerning." Coronavirus case numbers and hospitalizations for the disease have risen in recent weeks.
"We’re able to handle that volume in the hospitals," said Dr. David Priest, an infectious disease physician with Novant Health. "But we don’t want people to have to be hospitalized when you have a highly effective vaccine literally across the street from the hospital that could have prevented it.”
Nevertheless, Gov. Cooper announced this week that he expects to relax most COVID-19 restrictions by June 1.
ICYMI: MORE LOCAL NEWS
A coalition of city, county, nonprofit and business leaders launched an effort Thursday to develop a five-year strategic plan to eradicate homelessness and expand low-income housing in Charlotte.
Last year, Charlotte nearly hit a record high in homicides. The majority of victims were Black and younger than 30. This prompted the 100 Black Men of Greater Charlotte to repeat its antiviolence billboard campaign, with 34 billboards erected citywide.
The city said it would no longer allow duplexes and triplexes on all residential lots in its 2040 plan. Also in this week's BizWorthy: It'll cost you an arm and a leg to rent a car these days and ... just what is that smell in south Charlotte?
Leaders of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools continue to struggle with a contract policy that raises questions about the best way to keep good, experienced teachers — especially Black teachers — in the midst of a teacher shortage.
After spending four years in sanctuary at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Greensboro, Juana Tobar Ortega, an immigrant mother from Guatemala, will not be deported by the Department of Homeland Security.
The North Carolina Senate will not vote on a controversial bill that would prohibit transgender people under 21 from receiving medical care related to gender transition, according to a spokesperson for GOP Senate leader Phil Berger.
Corey Mitchell is retiring from his job at Northwest School of the Arts in Charlotte to launch the nonprofit Theatre Gap Initiative. He says he wants to help students of color navigate the college application system and land careers in theater arts.
As part of our series Rebuilding Charlotte, "Morning Edition" host Marshall Terry caught up with the Charlotte Museum of History's president and CEO to see how the museum is doing as it emerges from the coronavirus shutdown. She said, "We'll never go back to being just analog."
THE HIGH COST OF COVID-19
College enrollment has declined during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many students of color have to choose between getting a degree or a job. But one Charlotte student isn’t letting the challenges the pandemic brought him deter his plans.
YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED
A FAQ City listener noticed something interesting about Charlotte when she rode her bike. “I noticed there were these signs and bikes painted on the road with arrows and things, but there isn’t always a bike lane to go along with it,” she said. “What do the bike route signs all over Charlotte mean? I see them even on streets that don’t have bike lanes.” The latest FAQ City answers your bike questions.
HAVE YOU HEARD?
Tony Arreaza had every intention of becoming the Freddie Mercury of North Carolina. But after emigrating from Venezuela to Charlotte in 1994, his plans changed. Nearly 30 years later, Arreaza has helped create a flourishing Latin music community organizing concerts through Carlotan Talents, performing guitar with his long-standing Latin band UltimaNota and even having the opportunity to channel his '80s rock icon on MTV Latino.
There was a shocking local crime story that grabbed headlines all over the country last week. But that’s not the crime story WFAE’s Tommy Tomlinson wants to talk about. In his On My Mind commentary, he looks at the killings of two people whose entire community is under attack.
BEST OF CHARLOTTE TALKS
Homelessness is a problem that’s difficult to solve. Despite sincere efforts that population continues to grow locally. Officials found temporary housing for former residents of a now-closed encampment near uptown, and now Charlotte is allocating $6 million for more permanent housing.