In the weeks since the McKinney Pool Party incident on June 5, in which a white officer pulled a gun on unarmed black teenagers, a few names have surfaced: Eric Casebolt, the McKinney police officer who was seen in the video throwing a teenage girl to the ground and brandishing his gun; Tatyana Rhodes, the 19-year-old African-American woman who hosted the party at her neighborhood’s pool; and Tracey Carver-Allbritton, the adult white woman who, witnesses at the party have claimed, hurled racial slurs at the teenagers before the police arrived.
What Casebolt did was captured on YouTube. What Carver-Allbritton is accused of was not. There’s a video of Carver-Allbritton involved in a fight with Rhodes on Twitter, but the moments leading up to the encounter weren’t recorded, and she says that what happened is very different from the reports of the young people who were at the scene. And to buttress her point, she’s tapped a high-profile advocate: Gloria Allred, the famed civil rights attorney who’s represented scores of clients involved in high-profile cases over decades.
You might know Allred’s name from the civil suit against O.J. Simpson, in which she represented the Brown family, or for representing Lisa Simpson in a 2001 episode of The Simpsons. She’s a very successful attorney who seems attracted to high-profile cases involving women. But representing Tracey Carver-Allbritton is kind of a left-field turn for her.
Carver-Allbritton was suspended from her job at Core Logic, a Bank of America vendor, following a campaign to have the company take action against the woman accused of making the slurs. It’s unclear at the moment precisely what legal action she plans to pursue with Allred in her corner—she hasn’t officially been fired from Core Logic at the moment, and even if she were, the grounds for a wrongful termination suit in an at-will employment state like Texas are shaky at best. Allred released a video statement this week, in which she’s flanked by Carver-Allbritton and an African-American man who is a friend of the family, explaining why she’s chosen to get involved in the case:
I have agreed to support Tracey and her family, because I am very concerned that the movement for racial equality suffers a serious setback when innocent individuals are wrongly accused of making racists statements based on false rumors and find themselves and their children being threatened that they will be raped and murdered.
Polarization of the races, rather than progress toward equality is the result of false rumors. Lies must be stopped, especially in the case of Tracey Carver who has lived her values of diversity and equality of opportunity through her deeds, not just her words.
Tracey and her children need to be able to go home again and live, work and go to school in safety. Those who have lied about Tracey owe her an apology and it is long overdue for them to tell the truth about what really happened on June 5, 2015 in McKinney, Texas.
To be certain, if death and rape threats are being issued toward Carver-Allbritton, that’s certainly a foul and inexcusable way to respond to the situation. She says that she’s moved out of her home and is currently in California, and Allred claims that the death and rape threats have been posted on a fake Facebook profile in her client’s name, and that they’ve been reported to the police.
Carver-Allbritton gave a statement of her own recounting her own version of what happened on June 5.
“A young woman over the age of 18 then began screaming and charged down the stairs at my friend. My friend did not make any motion toward her. My friend’s hair was grabbed and she was pulled to the middle of the street. My kids were screaming and traumatized. I walked out to diffuse the fight and did just that. I did not beat anyone nor did I use use racial slurs of any kind. I was trying to separate friend from a person who was pulling her hair.”
Both Carver-Allbritton’s and Tatyana Rhodes’s versions of the moments leading up to the fight between Rhodes and Carver-Allbritton’s friend—which was captured on video—are plausible enough. Rhodes and other witnesses say that the friend started the fight by striking first, and that Carver-Allbritton used racial slurs before the camera started recording. Carver-Allbritton says that Rhodes struck first and that she didn’t use racial slurs.
We’ll obviously never know what happened here, barring the release of a new video that definitively shows Carver-Allbritton shouting slurs, or that shows Rhodes striding down the stairs to the other woman in the video and striking her first—and if such a video existed, we probably would have seen it two weeks ago.
In other words, what we have here is a he-said/she-said story about heated moments, involving a lot of heated sentiment. Those who are inclined to believe Carver-Allbritton are likely to do so regardless of who her lawyer is and those who are inclined to believe Rhodes and the other teenagers at the party aren’t going to be dissuaded because Gloria Allred called them liars, at least not if the basis for Allred’s claims are merely that Carver-Allbritton “has lived her values of diversity and equality of opportunity through her deeds,” which isn’t exactly evidence.
All of this speaks to the larger issue here, though, which is that situations like the one that occurred at the swimming pool in McKinney are deeply contentious, and images like the ones that came out almost two weekends ago leave people frustrated and despairing. When you watch Casebolt throw a young teenage girl in a bathing suit to the ground, sit on her back, and pull his gun, you’re not just watching the actions of one individual—you’re watching an example of the history of racism in the U.S. When you hear about the allegations of racial slurs made toward the teens, you’re hearing reminders that from Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin, the way that black teenagers are treated by their white neighbors can be deadly. And regardless of what words Carver-Allbritton said that afternoon, there is no punishment any one person can receive that feels like justice when the stakes are so high.
Which is why a campaign was organized to get Carver-Allbritton fired, and why people might have posted death threats on a fake Facebook page in her name. Because the ongoing, unyielding racism in the U.S. that left McKinney teens traumatized and terrified at the hands of Eric Casebolt—or that, last night, left nine dead in Charleston, South Carolina, and which will leave more black bodies dead or terrorized in the weeks, months, and years to come—is so massive that there’s no single target that’s ultimately appropriate, or against whom justice can be sought.
We don’t know exactly why Allred took the case, or why she finds Carver-Allbritton to be so credible a source here, or where her confidence that the teens in McKinney “have lied about Tracey” comes from. Carver-Allbritton could be telling the truth, the teens could, or what really happened could lie somewhere in the middle. But ultimately, that doesn’t really matter. Because whatever words Carver-Allbritton did or didn’t say, attempting to hold one white woman accountable for generations of racial discrimination and violence can’t ever really feel like justice.