Charles Graham is a Democratic state assemblyman in North Carolina. He's currently running to represent the state's Ninth Congressional District in the US House. The ninth district is a rare example of actual election fraud. In 2018, Republican Mark Harris narrowly defeated Democrat Dan McGready by less than half a percentage point. It was probably even less than that because of all the confirmed ballot fraud by GOP operatives. A new election was held in September 2019 with a new Republican candidate, Dan Bishop, after Harris dropped out. Bishop won the battle of the Dans and easily won re-election last November by 11 points.

So, what chance does Graham have against Bishop next year? We think a pretty good one, after watching his campaign launch video.


Graham starts the video with these searing words: “When I was a young boy, the KKK announced a night rally in my home county." The school boards that have banned critical race theory might not want to hear Graham's story, but he's going to educate us anyway.

Graham was seven — my son's age — in 1958 when the Klu Klux Klan set out to terrorize the Black people and Lumbee tribe members in Robeson County. On January 13, they'd burned crosses on the front lawns of two Lumbee families. Their ranks had reportedly grown in defiance of the 1954 Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education decision that desegregated public schools. The Klan planned to hold a “rally" on January 18 in a field near Maxton.

Led by James W. “Catfish" Cole of South Carolina, the Klan's stated objective was "to put the Indians in their place, to end race mixing." Because it's important to preserve the purity of a master race with members named “Catfish." A Lumbee family had moved into an all-white neighborhood (that was the first burning cross) and a Lumbee woman was apparently dating a white man (the second burning cross).

GRAHAM: We were a poor farming community — Black, white, and Indian. My parents and grandparents were sharecroppers like many. The police chief warned the grand dragon, “These people don't want your trouble." The klansmen called us “mongrels, half-breeds" and told him that the Klan would show him how to handle people like us.

That night, they rode in with their cars, their crosses, and a single lightbulb hooked to a car battery. Fifty klansmen, not a bad turnout on a cold night. Problem is they were surrounded by 400 Lumbees.

Graham described how hundreds of normal people stood together against ignorance and hate. Klansmen are cowards by definition, governed entirely by fear, so when they realized they were outnumbered, they scattered. Some left under police protection, but old Catfish fled into the woods. The cops had to fish some of these assholes out of the swamp.

Yes, these good people canceled the Klan. They didn't offer them their own Fox News show during the 8 p.m. time slot.

Graham isn't a common Tim Scott. He doesn't end this gripping story with the absurd claim that racism is over, and he doesn't suggest that “woke" schoolteachers are the ones keeping racism alive. He's not on a Bill Maher panel. No, his campaign ad is a moral call to action for this singular moment. He directly links the 1958 Klan rally to a later one under a different name. The ad features images of the January 6 insurrection, which Mike Pence might want to forget but we never will.

GRAHAM: In Washington, lies turned to violence, and the biggest lie is that America is at war with itself. That you can't trust your neighbor.

With that last line, the images change from the January 6 mob to St. Louis couple Patricia and Mark McCloskey shouting and waving guns at harmless pedestrians they assumed were invading their home. Graham denounces the other lies that have formed the basis of the modern Republican platform: That your fellow humans want something that's yours and that you must live in fear of them.

GRAHAM: But the people who stood up at Hayes Pond refused to be afraid. I grew up with their story, and the lesson is: Human dignity is a human right.

Graham is a complicated figure. He spent 30 years advocating for the rights of special needs students in North Carolina schools, but unfortunately, he voted in favor of the gross anti-trans bathroom bill, which would contradict his statement about human dignity. But if he can fully embrace that message for everyone, then he's a far superior option for Congress than Dan Bishop, who voted to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

[Fast Company]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."

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