Democrats in North Carolina and Wake County reprimanded one of their own executive committee members this week after accusing a US Senate candidate of exaggerating the number of black people killed in US history.
Former State Senator Erica Smith, a Democratic candidate for the US Senate, emailed her supporters on Tuesday after the murder conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd, a black man.
“I think of the millions of black men and women who have been murdered, who have been lynched and slaughtered with contempt, and who have never had their day in court, let alone a just decision,” wrote Smith.
Smith is seeking to become the first black American senator from North Carolina. There are currently no black women in the US Senate.
Michael Schaul, a longtime member of the North Carolina Democratic Party’s state executive committee representing Wake County, sent Smith’s campaign an email criticizing his response and questioning his calculations.
“Exaggeration doesn’t help. Gross exaggeration is worse. It makes you look bad,” wrote Schaul, who is one of more than 800 committee members, including 66 from Wake County.
“Since the first African was brought to what is now the United States, if there had been 1 million people murdered, it would have been 6-7/day, every day, for 400 years” , Schaul wrote. “‘Millions’? How much? 3 million — that’s 20/day. Were there that many at the height of slavery, when the killing of a slave was, in effect, the destruction of valuable property? In the absence of serious data, I don’t believe it. 20 or even 6/day now, or in my lifetime? Unlikely.
“So, terrible as things have been for these 400 years, let’s not make it look much worse. It’s no use, let alone your cause.
Schaul, who is white, then forwarded the email to others, saying, “Once again I find myself having to write to Erica’s campaign to tell them how much their e- emails are bad.”
After the email was made public by Smith, the county and state parties responded with statements of support for Smith and a rebuke, but not by name, of Schaul.
Schaul declined interview requests from The News & Observer on Thursday, saying in an email that he was “still considering” her response.
Smith published part from his email to his Twitter feed in a thread that included his own calculations. Smith, who said she is a descendant of slaves, pointed to search this indicates that nearly 2 million slaves did not have “survive the journey” in America and that “half of all child slaves died within their first year of life”.
“We’re over a million and that’s not even counting Jim Crow, police killings and all the other ways black people have been ‘slaughtered’ in our history,” Smith wrote.
In a statement to The News & Observer, Smith linked the remarks to barriers black women face when running for office.
“I was not surprised at the sentiment expressed in this email. I was surprised when I saw the headline of the person who sent it. It is structural racism that comes to light when a black woman is running for office,” she said.
“It is attitudes, comments and beliefs like these that have made it so difficult for black women to gain elected office. There’s an old boys’ club that has normalized dangerous and hurtful comments like these and it’s long overdue for that to end. As a party, we need to have these difficult conversations about how we have too often reflected the same inequalities, prejudices, callousness and injustice that we seek to change in our communities and society.
“I support calls for him to step down and, if necessary, be fired.”
The party defends Smith
The Wake County Democratic Party released a statement that its leaders were “deeply disappointed by the callous and factually incorrect response of a member of our county’s state executive committee in response to Senator Smith’s email.”
He called on Schaul to formally apologize to Smith, retract his statement, and stop indulging in harmful rhetoric. The party also invited him to take training on diversity, equity and inclusion. There was no question of resignation.
The Smith campaign said Thursday that it had not been contacted by Schaul. Smith posted on Twitter that she had “an encouraging discussion with Wake County Dem management.”
The North Carolina Democratic Party says the comments “are wrong and do not reflect the values” of the party.
Of the more than 800 members of the state executive committee of the North Carolina Democratic Party, 450 are elected from counties. Schaul was elected for a two-year term in May. There are a long process of removing members positions within the party.
In Smith’s original email to supporters, she called for reparations for black Americans.
“We must understand that no single verdict can alleviate the burden of ancestral trauma that we carry. Black America needs more than a verdict. We need reparations,” she wrote. “We must continue to be, as we have been, vigilant vehicles of justice.”
In 2018, Schul wrote a News & Observer letter to the editor defending Democrat Duane Hall, the former state representative who faced sexual harassment allegations. Hall, seeking a fourth term, lost in the 2018 primary.
Black-smith lost his bid for the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate in 2020. She served three terms in the State Senate.
State Senator Jeff Jackson, virologist Richard Watkins and Mayor of Beaufort Rett Newton announced their candidacy for the Democratic nomination in 2022 to replace incumbent Republican Richard Burr. Cheri Beasley, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina, should also work.
BEHIND OUR REPORTS
Who is running for US Senate in 2022?
U.S. Senator Richard Burr, a Republican, is not running for a fourth term in 2022. North Carolina’s primary will be on May 17, 2022.
Republicans (in the order they will appear on the primary ballot): Marjorie K. Eastman, David Flaherty, Benjamin E. Griffiths, Kenneth Harper, Jr., Pat McCrory, Charles Kenneth Moss, Lichia Sibhatu, Debora Tshiovo, Mark Walker, Jen Banwart, Mrs. Lee A. Brian, Leonard L. Bryant, Ted Budd, Drew Bulecza
Democrats (in the order they will appear on the primary ballot): James L. Carr, Jr., Robert Colon, Alyssia Rose-Katherine Hammond, Constance (Lov) Johnson, Tobias LaGrone, BK Maginnis, Rett Newton, Marcus W. Williams, Greg Antoine, Cheri Beasley, Chrelle Booker
Libertarian: Shannon Bray
Independents (must collect signatures to qualify for November ballot): Kimrey Rhinehardt, Adrien Meadows
For more on North Carolina government and politics, listen to the Under the Dome political podcast from The News & Observer and NC Insider. You can find it on Pandora, Spotify, Apple podcast, embroiderer, iHeartRadio, Amazon Music, megaphone or wherever you get your podcasts.