I didn’t have much faith that the North Carolina American Civil Liberties Union would come to my aid and protect my civil rights, and the organization proved me right. Years ago when I first met Katy Parker, the director of the North Carolina ACLU, I handed her a questionnaire about former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong’s disbarment. I asked her if she would fill out the questionnaire and return it in the self-addressed/stamped envelope I provided. She told me that it would depend on the questions. Well, she evidently did not like the questions as I never received the questionnaire back.
In the summer of 2010, several months after the Duke University discrimination incident against me, and in a time during which I was trying to resolve the situation, I wrote the North Carolina ACLU and asked them to provide legal assistance for Crystal Mangum, as I, along with the Friends of Crystal Mangum and others were not at all pleased with her legal representation by the public defender for the February 2010 arson charge. I was informed that because of their high volume of requests it might take some time before I received an answer from the NC ACLU, but that all inquiries for help would eventually be given a response. No reply was ever made to my letter.
Around October 2010, approximately six months after Duke discriminated against me (with the plan of arresting me), lesbian Caitlin Breedlove and her partner were asked by a security guard at the Cameron Village Shopping Mall to leave the property because they briefly showed public affection. When they took it to the media, the media-types ran with the story… publishing in the newspaper, broadcasting it on the television news… the story went viral (unlike the media response to the discrimination I suffered at the hands of Duke University… which the media collectively chose to ignore). Even though the security guard company responded expeditiously and fully acquiesced to the demands of the lesbians and other gay rights individuals and organizations which supported the discriminated same-sex couple, the story got national attention on cable news networks, and the local news coverage followed developments daily for a couple of weeks. Needless to say, the NC ACLU’s director, Ms. Parker, threw the weight of the organization behind the discriminated pair by giving newspaper interviews in which she blasted the security guard’s actions while defending their rights while on private property.
Even though the NC ACLU interceded on behalf of the discriminated lesbian couple, because of my previous interaction with Ms. Parker and the failure of the organization to respond to my plea months earlier for assistance for Crystal Mangum, I held no hope that the NC ACLU would give me any support. So, although I reluctantly filed a discrimination lawsuit against Duke University in April 2011, I never seriously considered contacting the NC ACLU as I figured it would be a waste of time. Then just prior to Christmas 2011, I ran into a young lady in an ACLU tee shirt who was signing up people to join the ACLU. With foot traffic being slow at that time, we had a short conversation during which I mentioned my 2010 discrimination incident at Duke University. She recommended that I contact the ACLU, and although I thought it would be for naught, I rationalized that there was possibly a remote chance that the NC ACLU might give me some support… at least, there was nothing to lose.
After the holidays I phoned the organization and somehow managed to get Ms. Parker on the line. I began to fill her in on the happenings that took place on the Duke campus in April 2010, when she interrupted me halfway through my presentation and told me that she would not be able to do anything about my plight because the discrimination took place on Duke University grounds, which is a private institution on private property. In other words, I suggested, are all private institutes on private property who serve the public permitted to discriminate? I then reminded her that the lesbian couple, upon whose behalf she so vociferously supported, was discriminated against while on private property… the Cameron Village Shopping Mall. Ms. Parker countered by stating that it was possible that the young ladies were standing on a public sidewalk that intersected the private property when they were asked to leave the Mall grounds. But Ms. Parker was not defending the lesbians’ right to be on the sidewalk, rather their civil rights when on the Mall’s private property.
Duke University may be a private institution situated on private property, but it goes out of its way to bring the public to events held at numerous venues on its grounds. For example, the Nasher Museum, which is open to the public, is located on Duke private property. The Duke Cathedral, which hosts religious masses with the public invited, is in the center of its campus. Other Duke property venues to which the public is invited to attend by the university’s aggressive marketing campaign includes Reynolds Theater, the Duke Chapel, the school’s main library, Bryan Center, the Duke Law School, and its athletic centers. Duke is a university that embraces the public sector and thrives on their attendance and participation in campus events. Whether a workshop on fracking, a concert by world renown artists, a conference on political/environmental/economic issues, an exhibit featuring art and/or artifacts, or a speech given by a dignitary or person of celebrity the private institution that is Duke reaches out to draw in the people from the community and whom are representative of the public.
Now, am I to believe that if the same discrimination had occurred to me on the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill or North Carolina State University campus that the NC ACLU would’ve jumped into action on my behalf? Are only state universities and institutions prohibited from discriminating? It would seem after my conversation with Ms. Parker that Duke, being a private university, has the right to discriminate against anyone on its campus with impunity… and that the ACLU will remain muzzled. If my memory serves me correctly, F. W. Woolworth’s in Greensboro, North Carolina, was not a state entity in the 50’s when it refused to serve African Americans at its lunch counter. Have civil rights regressed to the point where privately owned businesses on private property which serve the public can overtly discriminate anyone or any group of people with the ACLU’s blessing?
Needless to say, I was quite emotional during my conversation with Ms. Parker, as being deprived of my civil rights tends to cause me much aggravation. And with a modicum of shame, I admit that I sorta lost my composure to an extent, and our conversation, which concluded rather abruptly, did not end on the lofty note as I had planned. As a result, Ms. Parker, please consider this a heartfelt apology from me for losing my cool.
Unfortunately, to me it seems that the ACLU of North Carolina, which is charged with the duty of protecting the civil rights of all Tar Heelians, is ironically guilty of discrimination itself… discriminating against Nifong supporters. The organization has defended, with gusto, the rights of Nazis, Klansmen, Gays and Lesbians, and others who are disenfranchised. I have no problem with this, and applaud their efforts to see that the rights are protected of those who are in the minority in thought or characteristics, or who are publicly despised. In all fairness, I believe that umbrella of shielded rights should be extended to people who believe that Mike Nifong was selectively and unjustly disbarred and that he deserves to be unilaterally and unconditionally reinstated by the North Carolina State Bar.
This past week I would have enjoyed attending the daylong workshop on fracking that was held on Duke University campus and advertised as open to the public. According to the newspaper, more than 500 people attended from as far away as Massachusetts, Ohio, and Florida. But because it was held on the private property of Duke University, I could not attend, lest I risk being harassed, humiliated, and/or arrested… especially since there was no guarantee that a Duke professor friend would happen by at the opportune moment to again rescue me from such a fate. For these very reasons which threaten me every time I set foot on Duke University property, I have kept away from the December 2011 concert featuring pianist Andre Watts in an all Liszt program… I did not attend the September 2011 concert of Mozart’s Requiem… and I have avoided all other programs, exhibits and offerings held on Duke University property since April 15, 2010.
That my rights as a law-abiding public citizen are being trampled upon by the powerful and financially endowed institution that is Duke University with its selective discrimination against me because of my beliefs, thought, opinions, and allegiances is a disgrace. However, what is even more disgraceful, disturbing, and deplorable is that the North Carolina ACLU, which has a mandate to protect the civil rights of all North Carolinians, allows this abusive behavior against Nifong supporters by Duke University to take place unchallenged.
Discrimination of any kind is wrong whether it occurs on public property or private property… and, unlike the NC ACLU members who are sitting on their haunches in reaction to this form of prejudicial action, those people of courage and good conscience should actively and unwaveringly oppose it.