Every once in a while, there is a social shift so seismic that it transcends the work of just one individual to become the work of the whole.
The Rev. William Barber, president of the state chapter of the NAACP, jump-started and led the Moral Monday movement—regular demonstrations of civil disobedience at the legislative building—and then after the session ended, around the state.
We honor Barber and the thousands of citizens who participated in and supported Moral Mondays in North Carolina. Nearly 950 of the protesters were arrested, some went to trial and were fined. Only last week did the Wake County justice system, apparently aware that these hearings were a poor and expensive use of public money, dismiss the charges against 50 protesters earlier this month.
Skeptics could argue that Moral Mondays did not change state policy. For the near future, this is true. But that is short-sighted thinking: What Moral Mondays did is shine a national spotlight on the many injustices—in health care, unemployment benefits, gun laws, environmental regulations, voting rights, budget cuts to social services and education—foisted upon the citizens of North Carolina by Republican lawmakers. North Carolina, and by extension, Gov. Pat McCrory and his minions became the butt of the joke in America. For a state that purportedly wants to attract jobs and be viewed as an economic and cultural destination, that's bad for business. Even some moderate Republicans see that the state is now being run by the party fringe.
In the next election, we'll see better evidence of how Moral Mondays changed the state's zeitgeist. Although Republican gerrymandering has made it difficult for Democrats to win, there has already been an erosion, make that an avalanche, of trust in the McCrory administration and the GOP majority.
Like many geological phenomena, the final landslide might take awhile, but eventually it will happen. Too many people will feel the pain of these regressive policies.
On a state level, Moral Mondays informed lawmakers—although they're loath to admit it—that people are unafraid to defy them, to challenge, legally, if necessary, their fiefdom.
On an individual level, the demonstrations empowered us to do good in this world. They connected us, and made us feel less alone.