The Charlotte Hornets may not be playing in the NBA’s “bubble” in Orlando. That doesn’t mean, however, that the state of North Carolina isn’t coming up in one NBA conversation.
The San Antonio Spurs beat the Memphis Grizzlies 108-106 yesterday afternoon in Orlando. You’re probably wondering why North Carolina News Daily has a story about the Spurs and Grizzlies. Fair question.
Before that game, a reporter asked the Spurs’ coach, Gregg Popovich, about the status of player Marco Belinelli. According to ESPN’s Royce Young, Coach Popovich responded like this:
North Carolina’s Racist Literacy-Test Requirement Turned 120 Yesterday
Popovich is right about the law’s existence. On Aug. 2, 1900, North Carolina passed a constitutional amendment that required its residents to pass a literacy test to be able to vote. The constitutional provision provides as follows: “Every person presenting himself for registration shall be able to read and write any section of the Constitution in the English language.”
While the provision doesn’t racially discriminate at face-value, its impact did. As Popovich explained, illiterate registrants who had a relative who had voted before 1863 were exempt from the literacy requirement (known as a “grandfather” clause). Of course, the only residents who could vote prior to 1863 were white “grandfathers.” So, it was only Black residents who faced the literacy test. Keep in mind, this happened in 1900, 30 years after African Americans won the right to vote.
That Racist Constitutional Amendment Remains in the North Carolina Constitution Today
North Carolina lawmakers tried to strike down the literacy requirement in 1970. But, North Carolina voters rejected that amendment, leaving the law untouched. Since then, the state’s lawmakers have been unsuccessful in taking another shot at removing the longstanding amendment. Though, as a disclaimer, the state can no longer enforce the provision.
House Speaker Tim Moore has previously expressed his own “worry about what might happen” if voters had another chance. While he indicated at the time that he “certainly … would support” the amendment and hoped that it “would pass overwhelmingly,” it’s telling that he expressed a concern that North Carolina voters might wish to keep the provision intact.
Once again, the provision itself isn’t enforceable anymore. While that’s obviously for the best of anyone going into the polls for 2020, it makes the longstanding inability and seeming reluctance to repeal it more baffling.
Ultimately, we live in a state of household basketball programs. We’re home to the University of North Carolina, North Carolina State University, Duke University, and more. We’re home to the greatest of all time, Michael Jordan. Yet, for North Carolina in 2020, a racist constitutional amendment, not our basketball talent, has made its way into the spotlight of the NBA.