In a January 8, 2012 article in The News & Observer by John Frank titled “Black legislators blast GOP leadership,” African American legislators, led by North Carolina Democratic state Senator Floyd McKissick, Jr. roundly criticized the treatment of African Americans by the Republican controlled General Assembly. The head of the Legislative Black Caucus, McKissick made his discontent known shortly after the state Senate overrode Governor Bev Perdue’s veto of Republican backed changes in the state’s Racial Justice Act.
McKissick accused Republicans of disempowering black leaders, such as the head of the General Assembly’s Fiscal Research Division, and he chided the party for its disrespectful treatment of African American state employees. Senator McKissick concluded that the Republicans had shown “an overall disinterest and lack of respect for black people in North Carolina.” He then posed the rhetorical question, “When are they going to stop attacking black North Carolinians and focus on job creation and getting this economy moving?”
The answer to that question is simple… they are never going to stop attacking black North Carolinians – at least not as long as they see no reason not to do so. The Legislative Black Caucus has the potential to rein in the GOP’s acts of discrimination and disrespect but it lacks the courage to do anything about it. Republicans are aware of the silence of the black legislators as the criminal justice system tosses minorities into jail at an alarming rate and without probable cause, in many instances. Civil rights organizations such as the state’s NAACP and, to a lesser extent, the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, have failed to raise any objection to the mistreatment of the state’s justice system when dealing with Crystal Mangum (the Duke Lacrosse victim/accuser), Erick Daniels and Shawn Massey (wrongfully incarcerated for more than seven and twelve years respectively, but denied a pardon), James Arthur Johnson (heroically solved the heinous murder of Wilson teen Brittany Willis, and was rewarded with 39 months in jail and not the advertised $20,000 reward which he earned), Carletta Patrice Alston (held in jail without cause for twelve months before being released), and other innocent African Americans caught up in the swath of the Prison Industrial Complex with its insatiable appetite for minority inmates.
I have personally tried to solicit involvement in these causes of injustice by Senator McKissick, and state Representatives Mickey Michaux and Larry Hall, all of Durham County, but my endeavors have met with no success… and it seems as though the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong is fighting these wars against injustice alone. McKissick, Michaux, and Hall should all at least be actively advocating for their Durham constituents Crystal Mangum and Erick Daniels. But, like the NAACP, these politicians have all remained as silent as dormice.
Injustice against Ms. Mangum is especially egregious and is a prime example of vendetta justice at its worst… payback, if you will, for her role in the Duke Lacrosse case wherein she accused three Duke lacrosse athletes (from families of wealth, power, and privilege) of sexual assault which stemmed from a 2006 beer-guzzling, stripper-ogling party. The 2010 arrest of Mangum on a slew of trumped up charges, including felony first degree arson, was an obvious miscarriage of justice as Crystal Mangum was the victim of physical domestic abuse that February night in 2010. The prosecution by Prosecutor Angela Garcia-Lamarca perversely determined that Crystal’s ex-boyfriend abuser was an innocent victim who needed protection from the person whose face he had repeatedly battered with his fists, Ms. Mangum. McKissick and the Black Caucus remained silent.
Mangum now faces first degree murder charges in the April 13, 2011 death of Reginald Daye despite the fact that the stab wound she inflicted on April 3, 2011, had absolutely nothing to do with the deep coma into which he lapsed on the third postoperative day… and had nothing to do with the Duke University Hospital medical staff electively removing Daye from life support, which was the proximate cause of death. Major discrepancies exist in two autopsy reports on Reginald Daye which has neither sparked the interest of the media nor Black Caucus members. As with the bogus charges of 2010, the Black Caucus remains silent while Crystal Mangum now languishes in jail due to a vindictive and unforgiving criminal justice system.
Erick Daniels, who was released on appeal by Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson while seeking a new trial, was arrested at the age of fourteen and spent more than seven years behind bars before he tasted freedom. Despite his seven years of wrongful incarceration on an armed robbery conviction that hinged solely on the victim’s photo identification based on the shape of his eyebrows in a middle school yearbook, the Governor’s Office of Executive Clemency denied his request for a pardon so that he can be compensated for his many years of unjust imprisonment. I have appealed numerous times to Governor Bev Perdue asking her to reverse the clemency panel’s denial and grant Mr. Daniels a pardon. My attempts to enlist politicians, especially members of the Black Caucus with ties to Durham County, have been fruitless.
It is unreasonable to expect GOP leaders to show respect towards the African American community or African Americans in general if its African American political leaders show no interest in the plight of their constituents themselves… as is evident in these criminal justice cases. As long as Senator McKissick and his fellow Black Caucus members remain silent enablers of a biased criminal justice system, they can expect the Republicans in power to continue to treat African Americans dismissively with disdain.
Black Caucus members shouldn’t just sit in their comfortable plush seats and complain about the GOP’s show of disrespect… they need to do something about it. A good start to positively turn things around in the North Carolina General Assembly with regards to treatment by the Republican leadership would be for Senator McKissick and other Black Caucus members to summon the courage to take a stand against the state’s vendetta prosecution of Crystal Mangum by demanding to know why she is being charged with first degree murder in the death of Reginald Daye.