Nearly four years after failing to indict Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown Jr., a black man; only days after losing his re-election bid to Wesley Bell, a black man; an Oregon organization thought St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch would be the perfect person to headline its annual conference of district attorneys from around the state.
As it turns out, a lot of lawyers didn’t really want to hear from a trash bag filled with racism and white mediocrity.
Some attendees at the Oregon District Attorneys Association conference walked out of McCulloch’s first presentation because it was filled with racist jokes and “offensive” jabs. Others decided not to attend his keynote speech later that evening. Some prosecutors were perfectly fine with it. After all, this is what they do.
The ODAA is known for treating prosecutors who show no regard for black lives as if they were Beyoncè. A few years ago, its annual conference featured Trump bestie and Obama critic Rudy “Stop-and-Frisk” Giuliani. Lynne “Queen of Death” Abraham, the Philadelphia prosecutor with 108 death penalties under her belt and the highest percentage of black death row inmates in the country, headlined another year, the Willamette Week reports.
But Bob McCulloch was even worse.
In recounting McCulloch’s morning presentation, Deschutes County, Ore. District Attorney John Hummel said McCulloch held up a picture of a group of black men standing on a Ferguson street corner and told the audience: “This is what we’re dealing with.”
Hummel told the Willamette Week that McCulloch’s early session was filled with criticisms of Barack Obama, the American Civil Liberties Union, Eric Holder and, of course, Black Lives Matter.
“What I heard, offended me,” said Hummel. “The implication was that these kids were thugs ... I was bothered by the implicit nature of his words.”
Hummel was not the only one.
Rod Underhill, a prosecutor in Multnomah County, Ore., said he had to step out of the presentation several times, and his entire county’s staff of attorneys decided they’d rather lick the white, untanned folds around Donald Trump’s eyelids than attend McCulloch’s keynote address later that evening.
Underhill eventually wrote an email (pdf) explaining why he chose not to attend, writing:
Last week, I and many of our colleagues attended the Oregon District Attorneys Association Summer Conference in Bend, Oregon. There were several opportunities for us to showcase the leadership and exemplary work of our office. The main conference on Thursday opened with a plenary session conducted by the outgoing District Attorney of St. Louis County, Missouri, Robert McCulloch. It was during his presentation that, unfortunately, we learned not everyone in our line of work seems to share our commitment to equity, diversity and dignity. I found Mr. McCulloch’s remarks to be offensive and unprofessional. Having spoken with all of the members of our office who were present, I know that every MCDA attendee agrees. Mr. McCulloch was the scheduled keynote speaker at the conference dinner that evening. I chose not to attend the conference dinner, and I am proud to say every member of the Multnomah County DA’s Office who attended the conference also declined to attend the dinner and chose, by their actions, like me, to repudiate the offensive message to which we had been subjected to earlier that day.
With a name like “Rod,” and a willingness to speak out on equity, diversity and offering dignity even to people accused of crimes, it is safe to assume Underhill and Hummel are people of color.
But unlike Bob McCulloch and the Oregon District Attorneys Association, Rod Underhill and John Hummell are not cowards.
The ODAA defended its decision to pay the man who led the most divisive case of police brutality in recent history by offering a tepid, whitesplained explanation.
“We invited St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch to talk about the events of Ferguson and specifically the grand jury process,” ODAA president and Baker County District Attorney Matt Shirtcliff told the Willamette Week.
“Mr. McCulloch has been invited to give this presentation dozens of times throughout the country over the last several years. As Prosecutors, we see and address controversial and difficult issues every day and this topic is no different.”
“If there were aspects of Mr. McCulloch’s presentation that were offensive to anyone, that certainly was not the intent of ODAA in extending the invitation for Mr. McCulloch to present on this topic,” Shirtcliff said.
There are many experts and legal scholars who believe that the biggest reason cops get away with the disproportionate murder of black and brown people is that prosecutors side with police and hold an implicit bias against people of color. Statistics show that America’s criminal justice system is racially biased at every level.
And not only does the ODAA’s conference confirm that fact, but instead of seeking to make the criminal justice system more equal, they chose to perpetuate the bias. So fuck Bob McColluch, Matt Shirtcliff and the Oregon District Attorneys Association Conference as an organization, crew and record label.
However, if there were aspects of this article that were offensive to anyone, that was certainly my intent.