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by Peter Moskos

January 22, 2009

Ghetto Court

The Detroit News reports:
Mayor Kenneth Cockrel Jr.'s administration was dealt an embarrassing blow Friday, after his top lawyer ignited a racial flap by saying the city's 36th District Court was "acting like a ghetto court."

Kathleen Leavey, who is white, resigned as the city's corporation counsel Thursday, but said the comment was misinterpreted. That same day, the court's chief judge, Marilyn Atkins, sent a scathing letter to numerous city officials calling the remark racist.

Deputy Mayor Saul Green asked Leavey to quit. Cockrel's spokesman, Daniel Cherrin, on Friday called the comments "unacceptable."
"I called it that because of the way they treat people," Leavey said, referring to long lines for service that are common. "They treat people poorly ... whether you are black or white. You just get less service than you get in the suburbs. It's just a bad situation."
"It definitely could be perceived as a racist statement," Kenyatta said. "I don't think she would have said that about Dearborn's court."

Leavey said she plans to revert to her civil servant position in the Law Department. She's been with the city since 1985, including a stint as director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department from 2000 to 2002.

"I am not going down without a fight," Leavey said.

She said she is "deeply, deeply wounded" by the accusations she is racist.

So basically this woman is being canned because she's white. I don't normally have much sympathy for this line or argument. But let's get real.

Calling a messed up court system "ghetto" should not be a firing offense. Especially if the court system is! Yes, I know calling something ghetto is offense to some. And I briefly address this in my book (and then proceed to call the Eastern District "ghetto" with a capital G.).

Yes, it's a loaded term. Ghetto can be a racist term; it can also be a descriptive term. If it's used to label a decent person as "low class" simply because of skin color, it's racist. But many people call themselves ghetto. Many people act ghetto. Many people don't.

To me, the question is whether calling the Detroit system ghetto is justifiable. Now I don't know the Detroit court system at all. But if it's anything like Baltimore's, and given Leavey's comments it probably is, the court system is underfunded, overworked, and virtually incapable of meeting out true justice for and to the hundreds of thousand of poor black men and women--men and women from the ghetto (many but not all of whom are ghetto)--that walk through it's revolving doors every year.

The court system is one big hustle. It's about getting by with what you got, pulling one over on people out to hurt you, and looking out for number one. The courts beat you down and saps your will to fight for what's right. You can call that justice if you want, but if that's not ghetto, I don't know what is.

1 comment:

DJK said...

Add some bling and that court is Ghetto Fabahliss...