Friday, January 12, 2007

Our Collective Voice - Lewis Cheek


I have been involved in local politics since 1999. I have often said that Durham will never be the best that it can be until we overcome artificial racial issues. When I left the City Council, I suggested that our attitudes ought to conform to the theme of the Blood Song "It doesn’t matter what color you are as long as your blood is red."

2006 was a year of many positive developments for our community. But it was also painfully dominated by the "Duke lacrosse case." What’s painful is not what others, outside this county and outside this state, have said about us. What’s painful is what the circumstances surrounding that case and our reactions to those circumstances say about us and about what we have not yet learned.

Emotion dominated the campaign for the election of District Attorney. Issues became lost in rhetoric. The election’s over. Let’s put aside rhetoric, examine the issues, and see what they say
about us and how we deal with each other.

Something we heard during the campaign was "It’s not fair to judge Mike Nifong on the basis of one case." But it doesn’t matter who the District Attorney was, who the dancers were, or who the players were. The words and the conduct are what matter.

Pretend that ANYONE BUT was the District Attorney; that the dancers were two Caucasian women from North Durham; and that the party-goers were forty-five African-American members of the North Carolina Central football team. Under those circumstances would it have been viewed as acceptable for ANYONE BUT to:
  1. State in an interview before receiving results of DNA testing that a rape had occurred at the party;
  2. Give more than fifty interviews contributing to a continuing dialogue in the media about "the rape which had occurred" and presuming guilt of one or more of the players at the party;
  3. Characterize the party-goers as hooligans while an investigation into whether any crime had been committed was on-going;
  4. Seek indictments at a time when two photographic line-ups had failed to produce a positive identification of anyone as the perpetrator of a crime;
  5. Suggest that a line-up procedure be used which violated police department protocols;
  6. Seek an indictment of an individual when the identification was based upon "It looks like him, but without the moustache," when there never had been amoustache;
  7. Refuse to meet with defense attorneys to consider evidence tending to show one or more of those accused were not present at the time of the alleged crime;
  8. Never personally interview the complaining witness, the only eye-witness, to personally to assess believeability and credibility;
  9. Enter into an agreement with the director of a laboratory that potentially damaging information revealed by DNA testing be left out of the official report of the laboratory findings;
  10. And more.

Be honest. If those things had happened, under those circumstances, would the Committee on the Affairs of Black People have supported ANYONE BUT'S actions? Would the People’s Alliance have supported ANYONE BUT’S candidacy because "though he had made those mistakes, he was otherwise running the D.A.’s office well"? Would the Friends of Durham have stood by silently and taken no position on who should become the next elected District Attorney? The issue is not the lacrosse case. It’s the words and the action. The fact that it was Duke, that it was lacrosse, that the dancers were African-American are facts which, in fact, are not the issues which impact everyone in Durham.

The District Attorney’s responsibility is to search for justice. True justice is the same for everyone, regardless of race, sex, nationality, socioeconomic status and every other characteristic or trait which makes one human being different from another. I have heard people say that the "system" is different depending on who you are and where you come from. Is that just the way it’s going to be in Durham? We have a right to demand more. Shouldn’t we demand more? Aren’t we entitled to honesty, integrity, fairness and good judgment? Shouldn’t we demand a search for truth and not just a search for convictions?

If you care about Durham and the people who live here, demand more. Listen to what "persons in power" say. Watch what they do. Judge every word. Judge every action. One case or one thousand cases, it doesn’t matter. If there is no fairness, no justice, for one segment of our population, then we have no reason to believe that there will be fairness or justice for any other segment of our population. In fact, those who are most vulnerable should be most concerned. This isn’t just about judging the words and actions of the District Attorney. This is about judging the words and actions of every single person with any role in government who is in a position to affect your life.

How should we judge in Durham? The answer to that question is really not difficult. The real question, though, is will we ever learn how to judge in Durham? I hope so, but it won’t happen until we get beyond artificial racial issues and attitudes, demand fairness and justice for all and judge based upon the color of one’s blood rather than the color of one’s skin.

Lewis Cheek


Anonymous said...

This reminds me of the defense's closing argument in Grisham's "A Time To Kill"--well said.

Anonymous said...

I've got that book out... intending to do a rewrite. Lewis did a great job.

He took an unwarranted beating during the RN-VC campaign - in the media.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Cheek stepped up, at a time when no one else could or would, and did everything he reasonably could to give Durham the chance to undo the damage wreaked upon its electoral process by a dishonest DA. He will be recognized as one of the heroes of this sorry episode.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mr. Cheek, that was well said.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Cheek, thank you.

Anonymous said...

Cheek is no hero. When he needed to step up to the plate, he took himself out of the game. There is no joy in Durham, cowardly Cheek struck out.

Anonymous said...

i live in Durham and have been very disappointed in our elected leaders. They chose to run and then they wimped out. Durham is in a mess when it comes to its leaders. While Cheek did not win he did give us an option to vote for....and he would have won if Monk hadn't stuck his nose in it. Monk was a spoiler and i stil believe he is a Nifong flunky.

kbp said...

Great job there from one due respect.

Those that can't see he earned such respect simply need to open their eyes.

Concerned Conservative said...

I thought concerned NC citizens should read this:

Time For Leadership on NC budget
By North Carolina State Senator Fred Smith

During the 2006 election, many candidates for office faced questions from voters about the increasing size of North Carolina state government. Questions about the fiscal responsibility of the Easley Administration and Democratic legislative leaders are timely. The past ten years, General Fund spending has grown 24% faster than combined inflation and population growth – translating into a $1,116 increase in real dollars for a typical North Carolina family.(1)

State government spending continues to be out of control with a projected $500 Million revenue shortfall in 2007. The most recent state budget increased spending 9.7%, on top of an 8% increase last year. The failure of the Democratic legislature and Governor Easley to prioritize and control spending has resulted in millions of dollars of inefficient expenditures – instead of worthwhile investments like educating our children or building and maintaining roads. Ultimately, this careless, undisciplined spending has also forced North Carolina to impose on its citizens the highest tax burden in the southeast. Meanwhile, the local tax burden is also increasing.(2) Irresponsible year-after-year increases in spending strain family budgets, stifle private sector growth and damage the ability of small businesses and entrepreneurs to create new jobs.

Even Lt. Gov. Perdue, one of the most liberal Democratic officeholders in our state's history, seems to recognize the problem. She recently penned an email to supporters touting her hot new "reform" idea: a permanent state efficiency commission. The commission, she says, would "present a maximum of ten separate governmental efficiency proposals" to "counter the pressures in the system favoring wasteful spending and loopholes."(3)

Taken as a stand-alone plan, her proposal is not a bad idea. However, Perdue's latest press release misses the larger point. The failure to control spending isn't for lack of boards, commissions, or processes – it's for lack of leadership. The governor already has the power to appoint advisors or seek outside counsel on fiscal issues – or any other state problem. The governor has the veto power on the budget. He controls the Office of State Budget and Management. He has the bully pulpit.

On the campaign trail in 2004, Gov. Easley's "solution" to the spending problem was a self-enforced spending cap. During the 2005-2006 General Assembly, Easley promptly broke that pledge by signing two budgets that blew through his own cap. Now, Perdue has the magic bullet: her permanent efficiency commission. She says the group will create the "institutional momentum" needed to fight spending. Why add a new commission to the over four hundred boards and commissions already in existence, rather than just rolling up our sleeves and tackling the spending problem? Real leaders take excuses off the table, use the tools they have and get the job done.

Some skeptics may look at Perdue's record and fear that her efficiency commission proposal is just political lip service. She can prove the skeptics wrong though by signing on to support the constitutional amendment I have introduced to cap state spending growth.

Our rapidly growing, rapidly changing state doesn't have time for bureaucratic piddling with new processes. Instead of tinkering with the system, we must make real change which requires leadership. My Taxpayer Protection Amendment limits government spending growth to inflation and population growth. This legislation would immediately put real limits on government growth, finally forcing the legislature to prioritize spending.

Talking about fiscal restraint, finding government efficiencies, and getting tough on spending is a lot like talking about going on a diet. There are a lot of gimmicks and new fads, but we all know there's only one real solution: discipline. We don't need a new "fad" plan, we just need a leader with the discipline to make sure government eats less and exercises more. A constitutional spending cap would force government to create a strategic plan for growth, prioritizing what we consume and cutting outmoded, irrelevant spending.

We don't need a new blue ribbon commission. We don't need to pass the buck. We need results – and that takes disciplined leaders who will roll up their sleeves and make tough decisions. At the end of the day, improving government efficiency and reducing unnecessary spending reduces the demand that government places on the private sector, so the private sector can create jobs and economic growth.

(1) "The State Budget." John Locke Foundation:
(2) Lowrey, Michael. "By the Numbers: What Government Costs in North Carolina Cities and Counties." The Center for Local Innovation.
(3) Perdue News Update, December 29, 2006.

Anonymous said...

How is Cheek a hero? He let people campaign for him, put him on the ballot and then waited 6 weeks before announcing he would not run. Not having a real candidate hurt the ABN effort and a lot of Monks' votes in the final election came from people angry at both Nifong and Cheek. Cheek let a lot of people down. He also was crying on tv before election day and people around Durham are still wondering about that episode. He is not heroic and he and Jackie Brown are trying to get back in the news and rehabilitate themselves after their public disgrace.

lewis cheek said...

i don't need to be anonymous. this is lewis cheek responding to the inane comments of anonymous. i didn't let anybody down. i did exactly what i said i would do from the very beginning. if you could read, you would know that. if i was as ignorant as you are, i think that i would be a little less public about it.

Anonymous said...

What we have learned. We have once again been reminded that rape is a horrible, degrading crime which all men and others of goodwill should stand against. Even false allegations of made by a sick, addicted prostitute must be investigated fairly by a honest legal system. We have learned that those who work hard must redouble their efforts to protect the products of their hard work. There are many vultures that want to make a meal of your labor rather than call up self determination and produce their own. We have once again seen feminist are very short sighted and boiling with self hate. We have learned to stand up to injustice from weak men with to much power, like Mr. Nifong. And sadly we have learned that Black People would rather live out a lie than stand as individuals and search for the truth. They may not have the innate ability to discern truth.

Anonymous said...

Actaully the I read the Lacrosse team mates who hired the strippers specifically asked for Asian strippers as the advert had falsely said. Kim is only 1/2 Asian.

Then imagine a big moose like Cyrstal showing up. I think that is why they were not really making any money because, sorry, but Cyrstal is a big girl and not very attractive. So when they didn't get "tips" as they wanted they were pissed. Cyrstal figured out if she lied she could possibly black mail those "rich white boys".

Anonymous said...

01/19/98 Newsweek, Page 62

January 6, 1964, was a long day for Martin Luther King Jr. He spent the morning seated in the reserved section of the Supreme Court, listening as lawyers argued New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, a landmark case rising out of King's crusade against segregation in Alabama. The minister was something of an honored guest: Justice Arthur Goldberg quietly sent down a copy of Kings account of the Montgomery bus boycott, "Stride Toward Freedom," asking for an autograph. That night King retired to his room at the Willard Hotel. There FBI bugs reportedly picked up 14 hours of party chatter, the clinking of glasses and the sounds of illicit ***--including King's cries of "I'm f--ing for God" and "I'm not a Negro tonight!"

Anonymous said...

Mr. Cheek did give Durham voters an option -- unfortunately not enough Durham voters opted to vote for him. He NEVER misled the public -- at the insistent appeals of others and with only a few remaining before the deadline to be added to the ballot, Cheek agreed to let a group petition for him. He told them (and the public) up front that he would have to be assured that his livelyhood (his new lawfirm) could survive if he left them to serve as DA. It is honorable that he DID not desert his partners ... yes, it was a sad day for Durham but Lewis was not a coward. Yes, he could have won had he stayed in the race but... would it have been right to leave those he'd promised to work with just 3 years earlier -- in a financial and professional bind?? And, frankly, Mr. Monks was an opportunist who couldn't win and wasn't qualified -- whether he was a spoiler well.. who knows at this point?? One could certainly make that argument.

Sadly, though this event, I've learned much about racism. And how some of our population looks for and 'sees' white racism in all black/white issues