Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Saying We Are Sorry is Not Enough

How can my fair state of South Carolina boast the slogan "Smiling Faces, Beautiful Places" and then have one of our citizens, a law enforcement officer no less, bring shame by the following incorrigible act:

Two Hollywood stars claim they were harassed by a police officer--all because of their race.  Cherie Johnson and her boyfriend Dennis White were driving through South Carolina on their way to Myrtle Beach for a romantic getaway when they were pulled over for allegedly speeding.  A little while later, the couple got on the highway and passed some cotton fields and decided to stop and get a better look.  They took some photos in the field and returned to their car to find a cop parking behind it. That's when things took an ugly turn. Cherie and Dennis claim that the officer grabbed his gun and told Cherie to get in the car.
The couple claims the officer proceeded to interrogate them about drugs and even searched their car.  They say he pulled a tea bag out of Dennis’ bag and alleged that it was marijuana, but then realized his error.  At one point, they claim he told Cherie that there was a warrant out for her arrest, but later admitted that there was no warrant.  Both Cherie and Dennis were handcuffed, though they weren’t arrested.
Marion County Sheriff Mark Richardson issued a statement on Monday in regard to the actors' claims: "Discrimination in any form, including racial profiling, is strictly prohibited by this department and as Sheriff of Marion County SC, I can assure you I will take immediate and appropriate action to investigate the allegations of racial profiling made by Mr. White and Ms. Johnson. This matter will be dealt with by an internal investigation within the department and I will also ask the State Law Enforcement Division to review the allegation made against Deputy Barfield."
Both actors have starred in movies and television and were in the south because they had been teaching acting workshops there.  Cherie starred on “Family Matters” and “Punky Brewster,” and Dennis was featured in the film “Notorious.”

Now, I am sure you are aware of this, unless you have been living under a rock. This incident has been commented on and referred to by every talk show on every network I have seen in the past 24 hours - as it should have been. And, it has set the reputation of our state (and society) back 50 years or so.

This is totally unacceptable. I will say, I was extremely proud (and impressed) by the Marion County sheriff, who came out quickly with a very articulate statement saying that this is unacceptable behavior and that the investigation of the incident had immediately been turned over to state law enforcement division (SLED). If these allegations are proven true, which I have no doubt what so ever that they are, I would hope the Sheriff would take immediate action to relieve that deputy of his job, and if not, Governor Haley step in and do so.

This shows that there still are people in South Carolina who harbor racial prejudices. My parents did. However, South Carolina is not the only place this horrendous act could take place these days, it probably happens in every state in the union. However, as a southern state, we are seen as suspect in any racial issue. 

But, I would hope that my generation is the one that grew up with the understanding that all people are created equal. Being born in South Carolina and have lived here 52 of the 54 years of my life, I love the Palmetto State and am very proud to call myself one of her own. However, I do not want to be affiliated with, compared to, or grouped with this idiot racist. 

I personally offer my apology to Cherie Johnson and Dennis White. I am offended by these actions, and know that nothing we do can take back that horrible experience they had on the side of the road in Marion County. My hope is that they will be able to look past this one low life and see that he does not represent all the citizens of South Carolina. If any good comes out of this, it will be the unfortunate reminder that there are still ignorant people out there who need to be brought into the 21st century. And, if they still have these unoffensive thoughts, at least keep them to themselves.  

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