Art and Commentary by Dawn Blagrove
Being a Black lawyer in North Carolina, where, in many counties, you have to walk past Confederate monuments to even begin to extract fairness from a biased criminal justice system, requires very tough skin. Compound being Black with being a woman and the sea of racism, disrespect, and denigration that one has to swim through simply to do your job would be enough to deter anyone from this work. Despite all of that Black women attorneys walk into court rooms in North Carolina, and fight the good fight every single day. It is through this lens that I view the most recent attacks against North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls.
Justice Earls is one of only two Black people currently sitting on the Supreme Court of North Carolina, and she is the only Black woman. Throughout her tenure on the court, she has suffered blatant disrespect, thinly veiled racist attacks, and untold numbers of microaggressions. Not only from outside, but also from her learned colleagues on the bench. Justice Earls consistently and unwaveringly stands on the side of justice for all people, not just the ones who have historically been deemed deserving of justice. Even when she is drowning in a sea of political extremism on the court and racism disguised as color blindness, she does what is just what is right and what is fair. Justice Earl stands in the gap for every marginalized community in North Carolina and now she is under attack. I call on those marginalized communities that she fights so tirelessly for to now stand in the gap for her.
This year alone, Justice Earls has been on the receiving end of two witch hunts, disguised as investigations by the Judicial Standards Commission, into her fitness to be a judge simply because she has the unmitigated gall to speak truth to power about the insidious and cancerous nature of systemic and institutional racism within the justice system. Just like she fights for all of us, today she filed a federal lawsuit to fight for her professional career and her right to be a Black woman on the highest court of North Carolina. Again it requires very thick skin to serve the people as a Black woman in North Carolina.
What is happening to Justice Earls is a microcosm of what is happening to every Black, brown and marginalized person in North Carolina at the hands of elected officials who are determined to drag this state back to the days of Jim Crow. In North Carolina, we have Phil Berger senior leading the North Carolina senate and Phil Berger Junior, orchestrating his father’s bidding on the State Supreme Court. The collusion of two of the three branches of government that are supposed to work as checks and balances on one another is the ultimate attack on democracy. Without real checks and balances on the powers of our elected officials, we live under a dictatorship, not a democracy.
We are watching our general assembly, in cahoots with our supreme court, systematically strip away the power of marginalized communities by attacking our right to have access to the ballot, our right to protest against tyranny, our right to quality education, and the list goes on and on. Justice Anita Earls is a representation of all of us who are not white straight men in our fight for justice, equity, and fairness.
You are hereby challenged to stand with Justice Anita Earls as she fights for her dignity and right to be treated like a full human being. It is imperative that we rise to this challenge because Justice Earls is us and we are her. Together we have to fight back to maintain our humanity in the face of injustice. Together, we have to take a stand. We are HERE and will be unwavering in demanding equal access to all the rights and privileges enjoyed by North Carolinians.