May 7, 2023

I recently agreed to represent a black family who has been brutally mistreated in a southern, small town.  After I drafted and filed a complaint, one of the family members called me in a panic that their address was on a confidential form.  At first I could not understand why this person was so afraid (doesn’t this person know that they are protected by the law? Protected by the police?)

That’s when I realized that my since of security in this matter is proof of a privilege that I enjoy, that others may not have received.  

It is a privileged statement to be able to say to this person that they are in a position of strength “because the truth is on their side.” Do you know how many times the truth has been on the black communities side, and justice remained out of reach?

I mistakenly believed that truth and justice always prevail. That has – for the most part – been my personal experience.  But it hasn’t always been the case for the black community. When I advised my client to call the police if anything bad happens to them, they laughed at me, and that’s when I remembered that the police are often white, and often go to school or church with other white families, and may actually be related to the person being complained about.  Thus, in many rural communities today, black complaints against white harm are still ignored. And black families may also face harsh retaliation and or isolation for speaking up to make a complaint.

I was talking with one of my colleagues about this, and she said to me… “that’s why we do what we do. We put our privilege to good use for those who cannot.”

While I find solace in that, I still mourn this far too common reality.

David Borum