RALEIGH, N.C. — After Judge Evelyn Hill used the "N" word to make a point during a recent trial, the mother of one of the defendants sent a complaint to the governor's office. The complaint has been forwarded to the Judicial Standards Commission.
The complaint, and Hill's response to it, have led to debate about whether that word, in any context, should be allowed in a courtroom. Hill said her use of the word was taken out of context and that she said nothing inappropriate.
Here is the court transcript of Hill's statement from the bench, in which she used the controversial word.
"All right. I want counsel to remain seated. I have something I want to say to all three defendants at one time, so if all three of you will stand up, please.
"You may have wondered why I wanted to know how old his mother was and his grandmother. It's not my business to ask people their age, but I'm going to tell you why.
"I'm just a little bit older than his mother was. And I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. I graduated from high school in 1966.
"The reason I tell you this is because you don't have a clue what it is like to grow up black at that time. You don't have a clue what it was like to grow up white and to work in the civil-rights movement because you weren't alive, but I was. My family did.
"When I grew up, I was in elementary school, black boys and girls would not go to the same school that I went to because of the color of their skin. No other reason.
"If I've said something wrong, I suspect your parents, grandmother will correct me. But I don't think that I'm going to say anything wrong.
"When I grew up, if a black man walked down a street a white woman was walking, he'd cross the street. He couldn't make eye contact with her. You know that's the truth.
"Now, I'm not black, but you know what I was called? Do you know what my daughter was called in high school here in East Wake? She graduated in '93. Do you know what she was called? She was called "n----- lover." I didn't know that.
"She wanted to find a T-shirt when she was in the sixth grade that had Martin Luther King, Jr., on it, 'I have a dream' on the back.
"I told her the T-shirt was too big. I lied. I didn't want her (to wear it). I knew what kids at school would say. I didn't want her (to wear it). She was already dealing with special education. She . . . I didn't want her to have any more lip.
"We went shopping. She finally said: Mom, I don't want any other T-shirt. I want that. I finally told her the truth: If you wear that, the kids will call you names. She said: Mom, they already call me 'n----- lover.' I don't care. That's the shirt I want. That's the shirt she wore.
"And in 1968, when I was a sophomore in college, I walked down the streets of Lynchburg, Va., not a particularly friendly place for African-Americans, who were known as 'colored' or 'n------' at best.
". . . Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated, and he died. And white civil-rights workers died so that you can have what your parents and your grandparents never had. And they sacrificed so you could have a life they could only dream of. I'm not lying.
"And you come into my courtroom having terrorized a brother. This wasn't a simple thing. He didn't do a simple thing.
"I'll tell you what 'being cool' is. Do you want to know what 'being cool' is? 'Being cool' is being willing to be different. 'Being cool' is being willing to be different as much as you want to fit in. Everybody wants to fit in. Even I, at the age I am now, want to fit in.
"Guess what? I still don't. I never will. But I want to. I want to. I want.
"Other judges, other people would like to, like me, be part of the 'good 'ole boys,' all of that. But I'm not. I never will be. It doesn't mean I don't want to.
"But if you have the discipline and the courage and the support of your family to be different, that's what your family gives you.
"And you disrespected it. You disrespected them. You disrespected your race because that man over there was willing to be different. . .
"I guarantee you there was plenty of times when he said to her: I don't want to go to this school. I want to go to the other school. I want to be cool. He's cool because he isn't wearing orange, and you are.
"How dare you do that? What you did was wrong, but it is especially wrong because you did it to a brother.
"No. I'm not black and never will be, because it really doesn't matter what color my skin is, or yours. I was willing to fight for that when I was young, when I'm old.
"I got an e-mail. I got an e-mail this year from a person I hadn't talked to in 35 years. In 1968, when he was 17, I was 19. I was in college. His mother was my professor. We campaigned for the first black man that ever ran for city council in Lynchburg, Va. And he's white.
"We were two of the very few white people willing to do that because, you know, I had lunch on Sunday after church with a black family that went to church where I went to church.
"I got called into the dean's office: Does your mother know that you are having Sunday dinner with 'n------?'
"I looked at the dean. I said: No, probably not. But I think the only thing she'd ask me is what we had to eat.
"I was willing to do that. That woman back there and your parents are willing to do that, and more, so you can have a better life than they had.
"You have no respect for your race. You have no respect for yourselves, and that's the truth."