Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Heidi Carter's apology is only the first step: Show me more than you tell me

 An apology is not a conclusion. 


It’s the first step. 


County Commissioner Heidi Carter’s public apology is a big deal. It matters that she, finally after being prodded by me and others to back down statements made before and after a county funded investigation, but it takes more than saying I’m sorry to repair this damage. 


“Honestly, I’ve struggled with how best to respond to the manager’s account of racial bias in my interactions with him and county staff,’ she said. “Looking back, I recognize that my defensive reaction perpetuated a familiar defensive response by a white person, especially in the midst of ongoing anti-Black violence in this country.”  


Good for her. She finally gets it. It helps owning how and why it’s her “lifelong responsibility” as a white woman to constantly check, double check and ask a Black friend about her actions. We shouldn’t dismiss the sincerity of her apology.  


Wait a minute. It’s time for the tribe to gather around the campfire to have a little talk with Black Jesus. 


First things first, Black folks are 200 years past being sick and tired of apologies. It has never been enough. We’re sick of proclamations apologizing for slavery. We’re tired of press conferences offering thoughts and prayers after another Black person is mistakenly killed by police. We’re fed up with the assumption that Black folks are a forgiving people. Yes, we love our Black Jesus, but don’t get stuck in a hard place with only five cents to call back home. 


We may not answer the call. 


Why? Glad you asked.  


Saying Black people are fed up with apologies is another way of saying show me more than you tell me. It’s also a way of saying your white ass should have known better. Anyone elected to serve a community with a Black and Brown majority is expected to have taken lessons on how to communicate in the presence of Black and Brown people. Not spending time and effort to get that right sends a message of being lazing, indifferent, stupid or racist. 


Carter is correct in asserting this is a lifelong classroom experience. Listen up, this is not calculus, it’s basic arithmetic. No matter how you add things up, 2 plus 2 will always be 4. She should have learned this before the fourth grade. No one, listen up the rest of you serving in public office, should be credited with a seat at the table without the basic common sense related to how to act and treat Black people. 


It is also critical to note the subplot in this mimicking of a Greek tragedy. Carter’s apology came after significant backlash from white citizens. This is a powerful example of the virtue of checking your white people. All praise to a strong population of woke white people living in Durham. They certainly got Black people’s back.  


The problem with this plot is it shouldn’t have to take white rage to garner a response. What’s up with not being able to listen to Black people? Is Carter’s apology more of a statement related to how she is viewed among her white liberal friends? Is it about preserving the white woke vote, or does she really care about how she annoyed Black residents with talk involving this is how it feels to be a woman?  


Is this an apology to white woke folks evoking the power of equity and inclusion? Something about it sounds more like an explanation than the witness of a journey down the road of vast introspection. 


I wonder, has Carter apologized to County Manager Wendell Davis. Telling the community your sorry is one thing, but Davis is the one most damaged after being dragged through the mud of public shame by two investigations trigger by members of the Board of County Commissioners. For that matter, Wendy Jacobs, chair of the board, should apologize for leading from the lens of white privilege. 


Can we discuss a brand of leadership summarized best as patty cake style – a game of picking and choosing when to hide between the protection of policy and procedures? Jacobs wants the public to believe she can’t press a meeting to discuss the findings of investigations, funded with taxpayer money, based on privacy limits, while being comfortable with making a public announcement related to investigating Davis. 


Last I checked, a county commissioner is not an employee protected by privacy guidelines. Last I checked, the County Manager is more than willing to wave privacy concerns related to these investigations. Leading well demands consistency, and the only constant in this matter is Jacobs using barriers to transparency when it serves her agenda.  


Apologies matter. They’re the first step toward authentic resolution. Keep in mind those other steps. Some apologizes result from being pressed against the wall. It’s the call of surrender upon finding no form of escape. Is Carter’s apology the waving of the white flag. If so, does she have a small army prepare to fight on another day? 


Who knows?  


I’m waiting for the show me more than tell me. 







Monday, October 26, 2020

Durham Black residents believe white members of the Board of County Commissioners are using hazard pay to retaliate against County Manager Wendell Davis for alleging racism

 The word in the streets is members of the Durham Board of County Commissioners are using the decision made by Durham County Manager Wendell Davis to approve hazard pay to employees as grounds for his termination.  

Dr. Lavonia Allison, former chairwoman of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, believes things in Durham are out of control. 

“The way the meetings are set up keeps people from giving input on what happens,” Allison said. “Black people are kept from sharing how we feel and that’s dangerous for the future of Durham. 

The perception of commissioners using the authorization of hazard pay to terminate Davis adds another layer to a community massively divided over race. Allison said it’s what Republicans normally do to keep Black people from sharing in the political process. 

The word in the streets is Heidi Carter, Board Chair Wendy Jacobs and Ellen Reckhoware using hazard pay to deflect conversations away from the call for a community conversation regarding the findings of the investigation of Carter after allegations of racism made by Davis.


"Durham County Government gave Covid-19 'hazard pa' to almost every employee. Who will pay for it?" an article written by Charlie Innis of the Herald-Sun, raised concerns of malfeasance among some members of the board. A reading of Durham County policy clearly leaves the authorization of hazard pay to the discretion of the County Manager. 

“The County Manager, at his/her discretion, may authorize a 10-percent base pay differential to no-exempt essential employees for actual hours worked during any period designated as Administrative Leave due to inclement weather,” the policy states.  

County policy also give direction related to managing during a State of Emergency. 

“When the County declares a State of Emergency, an exempt employee may be eligible to receive additional compensation for time worked beyond his/her regular schedule,” the policy states. 

Jacobs joined Durham Mayor Steve Schewel in declaring Durham in a State of Emergency prior to Davis authorizing hazard pay. The “Eleventh Amendment to the Declaration of a State of Emergency in Durham County, NC to Coordinate Protective Actions to Prevent the Spread of Covid-19 (Safer at Home Order),” signed by Jacobs on October 1, 2020, chronicles Durham County’s response to Covid-19 (  

In part it reads: 

WHEREAS, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the undersigned issued a Declaration of State of Emergency in Durham County (“Declaration”) on March 14, 2020, recommending conduct designed to protect the public health; and  

WHEREAS, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the undersigned issued an Amendment to that Declaration, a Stay at Home Order, on March 28, 2020, imposing additional restrictions beyond those imposed by the Governor in a further effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, which was extended into the City limits of Durham. 

In declaring Durham in a State of Emergency, it seems logical for Davis to offer hazard pay to employees unable to work remotely. The ultimate question for members of the board relates to their support of employees who placed their lives at risk during a State of Emergency?  

The Rev-elution talked with Durham County employees about concerns involving hazard pay. Many say hazard pay is offered for people incapable of performing their job remotely. In their minds, it was a legitimate response after more than twenty county workers tested positive for Covid-19. 

“Pay was offered to people who are legitimately working in offices where they are exposed to the public,” a Durham County employee, who wishes to remain anonymous says. “If you work remotely you can’t input the code on your timesheet to receive Covid pay.” 

Another County employee shared concerns among employees after the Human Service building was shut down after an employee was tested positive with Covid-19. 

“People were told to stay home, wear a mask and social distance while we were being asked to come to work,” the employee says. 

Some members of the county commission fear the federal government will not approve FEMA fund reimbursement to offset the more than $3.1 million spent on hazard pay. 

“I am concerned that we have a very expansive definition of essential (workers),” Commissioner Ellen Reckhow said during a public meeting.” 

What does it mean to be in a State of Emergency?  

That’s the question for members of the board before further discussions regarding the decision to offer hazard pay. Not answering that question minimizes the integrity of claims made by Jacobs, and other members of the commission, regarding the severity of Covid-19. Providing a safe working environment for county employees, while acknowledging the risk of encountering the public during rising Covid-19 cases, matters to the men and women who read declarations of Durham being in a State of Emergency.  

Members of the commission are questioning if FEMA will reimburse up to 75% of funds spent on hazard pay. A more important question is if they believe county employees were at risk for showing up to work after they challenged county residents to stay home. Are they saying employees shouldn’t be compensated for taking that risk? 

Is so, County Employees Matter. 

The word in the streets is white members of the board are retaliating against Davis. Add that to a long list of perception problems that plague a highly dysfunctional county government. Given Davis followed county guidelines. Given the county declared a State of Emergency. Given hazard pay was given to employees who couldn’t work remotely, commissioners have no gripe other than not trusting the County Managers judgement regarding FEMA reimbursement. 

If that is true, they’re not trusting their own judgement.