Durham Lawyer Reveals What Systematic Racism Looks Like

I love Twitter.

Twitter is the social platform that speaks to me and my ADHD-addled brain the most. Information flying in and out at real-time speed, 140 characters forces you to say something important/funny/profound in a concise manner, the occasional opportunity for notoriety, and stream-of-consciousness thoughts that can only be captured by Twitter’s ease of use.

That last factor is what brings me to today’s post. Yesterday, amid the perpetual swirling of a chaotic and confusing discussion about race relations (ignited by Black History Month, the CIAA, the LGBTQ non-discrimination ordinance and general southern racial tensions), a friend of mine and former counsel T. Greg Doucette (@greg_doucette) had apparently had enough.

A criminal defense lawyer by trade, Greg routinely handles cases from the trenches. Robberies, assaults, drug possession etc. So it’s no surprise that he sees first hand on a daily basis what the effects are on a community when the legal system (whether actively or implicitly) works against that community.

Yesterday, a case involving a client produced an all-too familiar scene, one that he could no longer keep quiet about. Here, I present his series of 40-some tweets (with Greg’s permission, of course) that tell a story that is hidden from the eyes of the public, but one that rings true for so many.

(I’ve edited his words for continuity, grammar and punctuation, but his words are verbatim otherwise. See the entire thread in it’s original form here)

I get asked – often – if I hate police. I don’t.

I look at “police” generally like I look at teachers. When a teacher decides to rape a student, we don’t demonize all teachers. Same with teachers who are woefully inept at teaching. But, at the same time, no sane person denies there are teacher-rapists and teachers who suck at their job. I view police the same; I’m willing to take a leap of faith and assume you’re competent, until you prove otherwise.

Soooooo that brings me to court today.

Client is a 17 year-old black male, “YBM” in defense lawyer parlance. My YBM is charged with reckless driving to endanger, a very serious offense. He’s terrified. Cried in my office explaining the situation. He insisted he was just trying to avoid an animal that darted into the road, and swerved to the right. I pull the shuck, and read the officer’s narrative of what happened:

“Neighbor saw driver doing donuts in street, nearly hit wife. Skid marks show clear 360° circles. Driver claimed he was trying to avoid hitting cat.”

Re-read that: “clear 360° circles”.

Thankfully (how fucking sad is it that “thankfully” is the appropriate word here?) his mom didn’t trust the officer, and took pictures which she kept and sent to me (most of which were useless. People take pictures of a lot of useless shit when they’re terrified, by the way).

Now go back and re-re-read: “Clear. 360°. Circles.”

What. The actual. Fuck.

Do I hate police? No. I hate raging incompetent cowboys with badges financed by my tax money who clearly haven’t had an eye exam recently.

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻)

The DA was kind enough to dismiss the case without putting up a fight. My YBM client’s family is out what they paid me. Client himself is traumatized. And basis for police mistrust gets a fresh exhibit. While the officer who (wrongfully) charged him – and pretty clearly lied on official court documents – will face *0* repercussions.

This is what police brutality looks like. It’s not just people having their rights violated and the shit kicked out of them. It’s an innocent 17 year-old black kid trying to be a good human being and not running over a cat getting thrown headlong into our court system. It’s having to come up with money you don’t have, to defend yourself against charges that shouldn’t have been filed. And recognizing that – but for photographs that someone had the foresight to take immediately – you’d have been convicted based solely on the word of a law enforcement officer who swore an oath to serve and protect who then lied to the court with impunity.

The state doesn’t care of course. For every one case dismissed, hundreds more plead guilty. Court costs are $188 and up apiece. A day’s worth of traffic cases can finance an ADA’s salary for a year. Likewise for a clerk or judge.

Guess what that means for legislators? They can cut preexisting court funding and put it somewhere where it’ll buy them more votes. So you’ve got a court system that ends up somehow being underfunded despite charging a shitload of money for minor offenses; police rerouting more and more people (predominantly young and black) into the court system, patting themselves on the back (all for protecting us from eeeeeevil 17 year-old YBMs trying not to hit cats while driving). While the politicians fiddle as their constituents burn, because people naively assume things like this would never happen.

Welcome to the clusterfuck that is our criminal justice system. I filed to run for the State Senate because of this bullshit.

It doesn’t matter if you put an R or a D or a U beside your name – this is wrong.

Sorry for taking up your timeline. For reasons I still don’t understand, I’m *still* in disbelief that this shit *still* happens, when I know better. I’m now going to clog my arteries with BoJangles in the hope/prayer that I won’t still be flamingly pissed after lunch.

“clear 360° circles”

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻)

I decided to reproduce this because it’s a candid look into the micro-inequalities (hooray for new words) that quietly exist within our society. When people talk about racism being a system that benefits a certain person over another, this is exactly what that system is. Not using the N-word or moving people to the back of the bus. It’s a systematic and clandestine effort between multiple moving parts that allows prejudice to manifest itself, whether consciously or subconsciously.

Yes, we’ve moved on from fire hoses and separate water fountains. No, the underlying hatred and ignorance hasn’t changed a bit.

Carolina Panthers’ Super Bowl Run is what Cities Dream of

via charlotteobserver.com

There it is. You feel it?

There it is again. And again. Wait a second –

It’s everywhere.

It’s that rare electricity that’s been not-so quietly surging through Charlotte for the past two weeks, culminating in today’s Super Bowl. You’ve felt it everywhere because you’ve seen it everywhere. It’s in the jerseys and the car flags, the pep rallies and flash mobs. You see it in the Panthers-blue skyline that has lit the night, you’ve tasted it in silver and blue macaroons, your social media feeds are filled with endless Panthers hype videos. And, of course, you see it in the omnipresent and perpetual dabbing that has remained an ever-present anchor to this roaring showcase of Carolina pride.

(here’s the dab’s origin, if you somehow haven’t looked yourself yet)

The Carolina Panthers’ sudden run to the biggest stage in American sports has almost certainly had a positive effect on the local economy between two high-profile home playoff games, the bonus hospitality income that comes with them and the exponentially increased merchandise sales. Someone smarter and more motivated than me could probably produce a sound study that could tell you the added amount of dollars that are flowing into local businesses, and that number would probably be pretty satisfying.

But that energy? That excitement? That flavor and fun that has let you wear football jerseys and dab with your friends and coworkers?

There’s no study that can quantify that.

That kind of energy doesn’t come around often, and Charlotte is soaking it up. Regardless of what happens in the game tonight, the city of Charlotte won’t forget this Panthers season very soon.

Panthers Pep Rally January 29 at Romare Bearden Park. Photo via sportingnews.com

Two years ago, there was a bit of an uproar about how the Panthers asked the city for $87.5 million dollars in renovations to the 20-year old Bank of America Stadium. The Charlotte Hornets got in on the action too, riding the wave of team renaming fever to the tune of $33.5 million for upgrades to the not-even ten-year old Time Warner Cable Arena. Understandably, there was a bit of push-back and hand-wringing over the city using public funds to essentially subsidise private investment. For good reason too, this is the same city that wouldn’t give George Shinn money to upgrade the old Charlotte Coliseum, and also originally voted against building a new uptown NBA arena.

In the greater American sports landscape, this isn’t anything new. Major cities are routinely held just short of ransom with their respective pro sports leagues leveraging the threat of moving to another city in order to pry loose those taxpayer dollars. Ask the fan bases in San Diego, St. Louis and Oakland right now about how they feel about it. Ask fans in Seattle how they feel about the Sonics. The list goes on and on.

That electric feeling that has been so pervasive in our city in 2016? That’s the feeling that cities gamble on when they make these deals with pro sports teams. Every major city that has every invested in pro sports has had daydreams about experiencing a run that Charlotte is having right now (right now!).

For the past two weeks, the entire nation has gotten to see what we here in the Queen City have known for quite a while: that Charlotte is a quickly growing bold presence. Outside of North Carolina, people across the country have been saying things like “So the Panthers play in Charlotte, not Raleigh!” and “Charlotte is in North Carolina, not South!”. That beautiful skyline that we get treated to everyday has been seen by millions of new eyes, and people are recognizing the unique combination of finance and culture we have. We see this Super Bowl run as a manifestation of all the growth, development and progression that we’ve had for the past 30 years.

Not to mention, a whole lot of supposedly smart pundits and prognosticators have been made to look pretty silly by Cam and the crew.

via nytimes.com

That last point is not insignificant when it comes to how special this season has been. This Carolina Panthers team (led by its quarterback) has redefined what it means to be a championship NFL team, and one that embraces its culture and personality. Cam Newton has shattered stereotypes and challenged all of us to take a good hard look at who we are and how that affects what we perceive in other people. The team as a whole has carried itself in that incredibly hard to balance sweet spot between having swagger, being honorable and charitable, while also having laser-like on the task at hand.

As if that wasn’t enough, this Panthers team (if they win tonight) could be looked back on as one of the NFL’s all-time greatest teams. There’s not a whole lot of buzz about it now, but if Carolina was to finish as only the fourth team to finish 18-1, there’s going to be a lot of people taking a long hard look at putting this team in the top tier of all-time greats.

So enjoy it, Charlotte. Take pride in your dab. Wear with gusto your Kuechly jersey, your Cam jersey, or your Brad Hoover jersey for you old-schoolers. This is such a rare and perhaps fleeting opportunity to relish in the sunny spotlight that so many cities, sports fans and elected officials dream of.

Watch the Panthers win this game tonight and the city literally never be the same again because of the increased exposure for the city and for Cam Newton. If the team loses and that electricity is replaced by bitterness, it’s all the more reason to savor this moment, because we might not have another one like it soon.