The Bridging Divides Initiative (BDI) team conducted interviews in Mecklenburg, North Carolina, to better understand the local realities of political violence in the United States and highlight community responses. To understand what this looks like in practice, BDI structured our text around drivers of conflict and community mitigation strategies taking place in Mecklenburg.
While these are not the only points of tension or unity in Mecklenburg, this case study offers a snapshot of community response and an opportunity to highlight the complexities of a specific local context. Case studies can offer meaningful local analysis of conflict dynamics and highlight responses to destructive conflict and political violence from the communities at the front lines of these challenges. We hope the details below will provide a foundation to contextualize political violence and evaluate mitigation strategies used in other communities.
Drivers of Conflict
Interviewed residents coalesced around four significant drivers of conflict in Mecklenburg.
- Tensions around public education mobilizing residents and drawing in paramilitary groups.
- False claims of election fraud driving sustained harassment of local officials.
- Black and Brown communities remain persistent targets of state violence.
- Abortion rights issues act as a point of convergence for anti-democratic actors.
Interviews coalesced around four major mitigation strategies in Mecklenburg.
- Efforts to rebuild confidence in the election process and democratic governance.
- Hyper-local organizing in communities of color and rural communities to build political power.
- Empower Black, Indigenous, and People of Color residents through community-focused understandings of systemic racism.
- Bring community members together across and beyond party identity.
Taken together, interviews in Mecklenburg County illustrated both concerning trends and encouraging models of resilience. Examples of consistent convergence between “non-violent” and “violent” anti-democratic actors across issues suggest cause for ongoing concern about increased violence. In addition, persistent threats or harassment targeting Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, immigrant communities, women, and LGBTQ+ people continue to create barriers to full participation by all community members in political life. Finally, despite fears around democratic erosion and failing institutional capacity at the state and national level, solutions that utilize, combine, and empower local Mecklenburg leaders, residents, and organizations actively mitigate existing and future political violence.