South Carolina and Racism

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The Presidential election this coming week is not the biggest story going on in the U.S. The big story is occurring in South Carolina with two criminal trials both with unfortunate racial overtones.

First, there is the trial of Dylan Roof, a young white supremacist, accused of executing nine (9) African-Americans inside Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston during a prayer meeting on June 17, 2015. Roof did it for white supremacy and now faces the death penalty even though he offered to plead guilty and receive life in prison. The families of the victims, at least some of them, forgive and forgave Roof, and some have even stated they are opposed to the death penalty for Roof. South Carolina told Roof’s lawyers — no dice.

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Michael Slager is also on trial in South Carolina this week. Officer Michael Slager. Former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager killed Walter Scott during a traffic stop on April 4, 2015. Slager was caught on video shooting Scott in the back five times (he shot 9 times) and then when Scott lay on the ground dying, he handcuffed him. Slager is charged with murder.

There is scant mention of these trials these days. All we hear about is the most absurd election in history. It is a shame because these two trials cut to the heart of America’s deep seated racial problems that have come up from time to time in the election as a result of Republican candidate Donald Trump’s racially tinged rhetoric.

Roof, of course, represents the extreme of America’s racist history: white supremacy as ideology that is embedded in our culture and is oftentimes adopted and acted upon by individual actors like Roof. Roof’s acts resulted in the removal of the Confederate flag from the state house in South Carolina.

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Slager represents racial history as well. His is police brutality and the death of black men by police officers. Over the last few years, there have been too many high profile cases to name no to mention the public has not always agreed with the outcome of the cases. Eric Garner. Freddie Gray. And now, Walter Scott. Protests against these killings have become part of our racial landscape.

Scott’s case is also pretty important to many mostly because it is on videotape and his own police chief could not really support his officer. He was quickly indicted and the Scott family has already received a $6.5 million settlement for Scott’s death.

On Wednesday, the first woman President will be elected or Donald Trump. Regardless of the election outcome, let us not forget these two trials. No matter who is President in 2017, racism cannot be ignored. These trials will make a statement. Let us pay attention to the message.

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