Commentary

Firings of racist police officers in Wilmington provides yet more evidence of need to heed protesters

In case you missed it this week, the crisis posed by racism and white supremacy in American law enforcement hit home again in North Carolina for what seems like the umpteenth time in recent months. As multiple news outlets have reported, the Wilmington Police Department fired three officers for making racist comments that were captured by a police vehicle camera.

This is from a story in the Wilmington Star-News:

“Three Wilmington Police Department officers have been fired after being caught on a police vehicle camera making racist comments about local Black citizens, fellow officers and the department’s newly appointed police chief.

The now-former officers – Michael Kevin Piner, Jesse E. Moore II and James B. Gilmore – were identified Wednesday afternoon at a press conference held at WPD’s headquarters. Moore and Gilmore have worked for WPD since 1997 and Piner was hired in 1998.

Much of the video, which begins just before 7 a.m. on an unspecified date, is of Piner’s backseat. But then, about 46 minutes into the video, he is heard talking to Gilmore, who pulled up next to him, about the Black Lives Matter protests happening across the country and in Wilmington, according to the report.”

The article goes on to explain in grisly and disturbing, but sadly unsurprising, detail, the kind of language and statements the officers made. The men made repeated use of the “N” word and discussed their desire to “slaughter” people of color. At one point, former officer Piner expressed his hope for the U.S. to experience a new civil war so that he could (referring to Black people) ““wipe ’em off the f—–g map.”

The horrific revelations contained in the recordings provide just the latest in a long series of recent confirmations that the twin evils of racism and white supremacy remain a poisonous plague in America. What’s more, it’s a plague that has been regularly and aggressively fueled by cynical politicians like Donald Trump — a man pursued the presidency based in part upon the dog whistle prevarication that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States and who once alleged that the infamous Charlottesville clash of a few years ago between anti-racist and white supremacist demonstrators featured “very fine people on both sides.”

While there are many reasons to feel optimism about the awakening that seems to be taking place across much of the nation’s white population in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd and the protests that ensued, the disgusting news from Wilmington (which undoubtedly could be repeated in numerous law enforcement departments across North Carolina) makes clear yet again that the process of rooting out hate, and the troubled souls who wallow in it and spew it, is going to be slow and painful one.

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