Durham residents voice concerns about county commissioners' probe into racial allegation

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Some residents are voicing concerns about the integrity of an independent investigation into allegations of racism among the Durham County Board of Commissioners.

On Monday, leaders held a work session where several residents took to the podium to express concerns about the allegations that surfaced last month.

"Anybody who is going to investigate, you've got to start investigating racism, that's the root of the problem," one resident said.

The issue at hand involves County Manager Wendell Davis and Commissioner Heidi Carter. Davis accused Carter of making racist comments. In a letter, he alleged that Carter once told him "You work for the board. When we tell you'd do something, you'd better grin and bear it."

Davis claimed the comment evoked racism reminiscent of Jim Crow-era mentality. But others have called it a reach and have questioned the political timing of the letter during Carter's reelection campaign, including Durham School Board Chair Mike Lee and Durham residents.

"When we disrespect our bosses, they do have the right to fire us whether we're black or white. So when we look at this issue, it's not a discrimination issue. It's the fact that someone spoke out of turn," said Durham resident James Chavis.

Right now, that's up to an independent agency to decide -- but Durham resident Antonio Jones told county leaders that Carter shouldn't have a say in who that agency is.

"We want to ensure that Commissioner Heidi Carter is not a part of the process distinguishing what entity will be doing the investigation. I think that's a conflict of interest," Jones said.

Jones had another recommendation for Carter.

"I recommend 'White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for (White) People to Talk About Racism.' If need be, I will purchase your copy," he said.

Turns out Carter has a copy of her own.

"You can give the copy you were going to purchase for me to someone else," Carter replied. "I already have it. Already read it."

Carter has flatly rejected that there was any racial overtone to her remark. She said she was misquoted in that letter and that her words were never racially motivated.
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