Commentary by Dawn Blagrove

Systemic and institutional racism and many types of mushrooms have a couple of things in common. First, they both grow in the dark. Judge Osteen’s order, denying injunctive relief to Justice Anita Earls related to the thinly veiled public lynching of a powerful Black woman, confirms as much. He wrote that were it not for the lawsuit Earls filed, no one would even know she was being investigated. This one sentiment encapsulates how the status quo is maintained. Had Justice Earls continued to suffer politically and racially motivated attacks without attempting to fight, no one would know how the system is being used to silence her and so many others like her.  

Zora Neale Hurston famously wrote, “ [I]f you are silent about your pain, they will kill you and say you enjoyed it.” The only way to kill systemic and institutional racism is to drag it into the light where it can be examined and dissected. Judge Osteen’s suggestion that Justice Earls invited this attack highlights the huge blind spot American Jurisprudence has for the harm it exacts upon Black people – and with the audacity to demand fairness and equity for ALL. 

Second, systemic and institutional racism, like mushrooms, breed whitewashing. Mushrooms grown in the dark are usually completely white. Much like the lack of diversity in the courts that Justice Earls is being investigated for publicly highlighting, mushrooms grown in the dark suffer from reduced pigmentation (color) and smaller capsizes. A lack of people of color, diversity of thought, and lived experience hurt not only the judicial system but also limit the growth of a truly democratic government. When we operate in the dark, everyone loses. 

Lastly, the judicial system, like mushrooms, needs access to light to be stronger and more robust . Experts on mushrooms say that light helps the plant learn and understand the world around it. Similarly, when processes are performed with transparency and accountability, the resulting process is always healthier. 

Emancipate NC is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with Justice Earls while we drag systemic and institutional racism in our judicial system into the light and create a world where strong systems thrive for all those it is created to serve.

Take action today to support Justice Anita Earls in her fight for equality and racial justice in North Carolina. North Carolina Black Alliance and Emancipate NC ask you to join us and stand together for the integrity of our state’s Supreme Court.

Act now by sending an email to the NC Judicial Standards Commission through the Justice Fund 2024 page