Brilliant. Thank you for expressing the sentiments of a thousand exasperated local activists.
Mr. Van Hoy, if a police officer faces criminal charges, shouldn't the trial center around whether or not he is guilty of violating a law rather than whether or not he is he is following his training? If the debate is to be focused around whether or not Mr. Slager followed NCPD policies and procedures, didn't he stray from them when he left his cruiser and a passenger in Mr. Scott's car to pursue Mr. Scott on foot rather than stay with the cars and call for backup to pursue Mr. Scott? I remember hearing that in the weeks after the shooting last year.
I obviously want to see Slager punished to the full extent of the law, but passing time will see this case further politicized and obscured. In fact, it already has. In less than a year, we've gone from NCPD throwing Slager to the wolves and treating him like a pariah to NCPD officers standing up in court in solidarity with him. In a year, this will look like a police/conservatives vs. "thugs"/liberals issue to the jurors, and we'll end up with a mistrial or a not guilty verdict due to a lack of consensus on the first degree murder charge. It's sad, but this is what happens when police training and disciplinary processes are unreformable, and critics of bad police practices are branded as anarchists, criminals, or people who don't appreciate the job that police do or should do.
I'm not known for paying compliments to media coverage of this issue, especially here in Charleston, but I thank you, because your piece expresses simple but uncomfortable truths that many have been afraid or unwilling to publish. I disagree that it is not our place as white Charlestonians to explore and combat institutional and structural racial oppression, which is alive and well today. Our problems grow as we delude ourselves into thinking that proclaiming color-blindness and post racialism erases the systems of oppression still so powerful in our state and in our nation. As those who benefit, wittingly or unwittingly, from white privilege and subjugation, we need to be the ones to call it out and reject it. As members of a demographic whose voices are often heard a little louder than others, we need to speak up loudly and consistently on issues of race, rather than remaining silent and forcing our African American brothers and sisters to continue a centuries-long plea, which continues to be ignored and suppressed in the wake of our most recent tragedy. It is us who need to change, and that starts with those of us in the white community who understand how racism continues to function all around us. It is our responsibility as South Carolinians, as Americans, and as human beings who refuse to contribute to the subjugation and oppression of our brothers and sisters.
I am not a gun enthusiast or an advocate for gun rights, but I'd like to gently point out a far more glaring issue raised by this tragedy. We live in a state/region where racism and neo-Confederatism are brushed off or even encouraged as endearing ideas. This young man's friends listened to him make racist jokes and even discuss ideas about committing violent acts to spark a new civil war. At worst, these people found Roof's comments to be concerning, at best, as endearing quirks of a wild young Southern boy. This should surprise few of us, as nuanced racism holds mainstream roles in our society. CharlestonThugLife.net has never been more popular, the Confederate flag still flies at the State House, and many South Carolinians defend the practice of slavery and the merits of Jim Crow.
Even after this tragic event, our leaders portray Charleston society as unified across racial boundaries, an egalitarian jewel of the South (which I won't get into at the moment). Neither before nor after we found out what kind of person Roof was, have our leaders or journalists felt it appropriate to describe this massacre as an act of terror. Why do yall think that is?
I'm not saying guns aren't an issue, and I'm not saying Charleston is apartheid-era South Africa, but it's important to call out and have discussions about troubling aspects of our culture and all forms of racism. We are great at not discussing the subject, and even pretending that racism is not systemically perpetuated in our society, but I would argue that that is precisely why we don't make progress as quickly as we should, or as quickly as some other places have.
As white Southerners, it is our job to bring up these topics for discussion. As the beneficiaries of the spoils of generations of privilege and oppression, we must become comfortable understanding and discussing how racism is at work in our society. We need to listen to the cries of our black brothers and sisters and build trust in dialogue and progress surrounding racial injustice.
We live in a culture that doesn't see Mr. Roof's warning signs as red flags, that won't call a white man a terrorist, and that is often deluded about its ugliest legacy and current feature: racial inequality and oppression. This is the far more substantial issue in this case, and to reduce this tragedy to a lesson about gun rights or culture is to continue to miss the forest for the trees.
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