I realize we’ve been hitting the South Carolina shooting and the disgusting, racist criminal who allegedly perpetrated the murders rather often since yesterday morning. Unfortunately, nothing as serious and tragic as this can unfold in America today without immediately becoming mired in multiple levels of political muck, generally before the first facts are even verified. In this case, the process continued well into the evening and will surely roll forward in the weeks to come.
One aspect of the church shooting, however, seemed to offer at least a slim ray of hope in an otherwise dismal day. A consortium of law enforcement agencies were on the scene immediately following the attack and in little more than twelve hours the accused shooter was not only identified, but in custody. As the day wore on, amid the non-stop cable news coverage, I noticed one thing which seemed to be absent and took to my Twitter account to make note of it.
And perhaps a big Thank You to all the law enforcement officers who quickly handled the SC shooting situation.
— Jazz Shaw (@JazzShaw) June 18, 2015
That managed to rustle up quite a few retweets and it was good to see some solidarity on the subject. Unfortunately, less than two hours later, another, more ominous message popped up in my timeline from Washington Post editorial board member Jonathan Capehart.
Jonathan was linking to a hastily debuted column of his on the subject of the shootings and, as I feared, it went directly for the theme which I had fervently hoped we could avoid for at least one day. Without setting this up ahead of time, let’s see if you can identify where this cart began to crash off the cliff. (I realize the excerpt is a bit long, but please bear with me.)
As only an artist could, Solange Knowles, the songstress sister of Beyonce, captured the mood of African Americans upon hearing the devastating news of the massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.
Was already weary. Was already heavy hearted. Was already tired. Where can we be safe? Where can we be free? Where can we be black?
— solange knowles (@solangeknowles) June 18, 2015
We were already weary. Weary of the near daily barrage of news reports and videos of African Americans being assaulted or killed by police or those playing cop.
We were already heavy-hearted. Worn down by near daily reminders that black children can’t be children. And that neither they nor adults are above suspicion. We can never do things that are believed to be the birthright of every red-blooded American. We can’t go to pool parties. Being in swimsuits doesn’t reduce the perceived threat. We can’t play with toy guns. We can’t pick up a toy gun in a store and continue shopping while walking with it. The right to bear arms has a color line.
An attack on any house of worship is a moral affront and a horrendous act against our national ideals. But when a black church and its parishioners are targeted for murderous hatred, the terror it unleashes on African Americans grips those of us with a casual reverence for the Almighty with the same intensity as those passionately praise Him from their favorite pew.
Perhaps it was just too much darkness and too much frustration in a single day after so many dark and frustrating days before it, but I hadn’t even finished reading this insulting little diatribe before I was seething. The obvious conflation of law enforcement with a deranged white supremacist murderer was impossible to ignore. We can’t go to a pool party. We can’t play with toy guns. And now we can’t go to church. The listed police offenses, some included here and others which Capehart has written about in the past, include some cases which were tragic accidents, others where the police were vindicated and, yes, some where bad cops were found. But even in the worst of them they were incidents where a containable incident was escalated beyond reasonable levels of response, perhaps by an officer who harbored racial animus. But none of them … not one single incident… was even in the same universe as a skulking, deranged terrorist entering a House of God and wiping out innocent worshipers. The comparison is beyond insulting. If you want to establish a pattern, why not instead list all of the other recent mass killings where black citizens were specifically targeted. (I may need some help filling in the list there.)
But let’s return for a moment to the aforementioned police who the WaPo author has so casually lumped in with the South Carolina killer. I noticed that there were quite a few white officers out there canvassing the streets, for whatever that may be worth. And it was the police – across all racial lines – who relentlessly chased down the leads. And it was the police who found the suspect fleeing in North Carolina. And even though they knew that they were engaging an armed man, running for his life with almost nothing to lose, they took him into custody and are in the process of bringing him to justice. Any cop approaching that car could have lost their life yesterday and they knew it. And yet they did their jobs.
And what is the thanks that they received from Jonathan Capehart? They were lumped in with the very monster they were sent to apprehend. The Washington Post should be ashamed to have this piece appearing under their masthead. And the fact that it remains there is yet another reason why those of us who try to keep an open mind about both the police and the criminals who wind up in potentially deadly conflict with them find it so easy to dismiss the symphony of complaints which arise in opinion columns such as that one. As for me, I can assure you that the pool of sympathy I have for complaints about “evil cops” (some of which have some clear basis in fact) drained a few inches lower after reading this Washington Post piece.