In the wake of South Carolina’s decision to pull down its shameful Confederate flag from statehouse grounds, there has been a strong backlash from people who either (wrongly) believe the flag is about Southern “heritage,” or know damn well that the flag represents racism-inspired treason and like it anyway. Those who fall into the latter camp held a “Heritage” rally at the state capitol in Columbia and it was a predictable trainwreck.
White supremacist rally in SC pic.twitter.com/1UIWEQSWaY
— Jim Ryan (@jimryantx) July 18, 2015
Among several clashes between racist groups, including members of the KKK and various neo-Nazi organizations, and onlookers were moments of almost surreal disconnect between those who came to rally for hate and those who were tasked to protect them. At many points throughout the day, pro-Confederate ralliers bit off more than they could chew, only to be saved by the very people they came to hurl racial slurs at. To be an African-American officer in Columbia, South Carolina this summer should practically qualify one for sainthood. Throughout it all, the professionalism exhibited in the face of such ugly hatred is a testament to the black men and women on the police force.
While people in full Nazi regalia or proudly showing off KKK membership badges marched through the streets, again and again black officers kept things from getting out of hand.
In a photograph that is quickly spreading around the world and may one day become a sickening symbol of how crazy this Confederate flag backlash really was, an African-American officer identified as Leroy Smith was tasked with helping a neo-Nazi get cooled down and re-hydrated after suffering a potential heat stroke in the hot South Carolina sun… just so the guy could get well enough to rejoin his friends again in arguing Smith was a member of an inferior race.
not an uncommon example of humanity in SC: Leroy Smith helps white supremacist to shelter & water as heat bears down. pic.twitter.com/GoF23r3mRe
— Rob Godfrey (@RobGodfrey) July 18, 2015
In other parts of the contentious rally, officers had to physically protect not-so-tough neo-Nazis from picking fights they could not win. In one case, an officer had to stand over a man draped in a Confederate flag to protect him as he lay on the ground.
— Bart Boatwright (@bartboat) July 18, 2015
As we’ve seen time and again, African-Americans are being asked to have patience and tolerance towards the people who hate them. In this case, even help them. And time and time again, they have risen to that challenge, despite it being quite clear that white supremacists would never do the same for them.
It has often been said that courage comes in many forms. Today it’s clear that sometimes it looks like an African-American police officer showing compassion to a man who has none for him. It’s a sick irony that many of the Confederate flag-waving hatemongers who came to Columbia to support their white heritage believe they are American “patriots.” They don’t even come close. The only patriots to be found out in those marches were the men and women who came across people who wouldn’t hesitate to spew vile slurs at them and concluded that even they, the very worst that hatred could produce, were worth protecting.
Feature image via Rob Godfrey/Twitter