SOUTH CAROLINA is once again in the national spotlight. Video of a school resource officer throwing a Spring Valley High School student to the floor and arresting her is, as Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott put it, disturbing. The video and the arrest have rightfully captured the attention of our state and nation.
As federal, state and local authorities investigate the incident and the deputy’s actions, the rest of us must react as we did after the Charleston shootings in April and June and the statewide floods in October. It is essential that we again show amazing peace, calm and togetherness.
We inspired ourselves and the nation before. We must do it again.
Understandably, parents, students, administrators and the public have questions about what happened in that Spring Valley classroom. All have the right to seek answers, offer opinions and express concerns. A public discussion is healthy.
We had similar discussions in April after a white North Charleston police officer shot an unarmed black man; in June after a young white man massacred nine parishioners at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston; and just a few weeks ago after widespread flooding damaged thousands of homes and left at least 19 dead statewide.
After the North Charleston shooting, fears about violence surfaced because of the unrest we had seen in Ferguson, Mo., Baltimore and New York following the deaths of black men in police encounters.
Sheriff asks FBI, US Justice Department to investigate Spring Valley incident
“People mention Baltimore. People mention Ferguson. People mention New York,” North Charleston City Attorney Brady Hair told The Associated Press earlier this month. “What’s different here is there were no acts of violence. There were no buildings burned.
“None of us did anything to escalate this into an uncontrolled environment. It is a different template from what you have seen around the country.”
The Mother Emanuel shootings sparked outrage among South Carolinians of all races and religious beliefs. Immediately, the people and churches of Charleston reached out to the congregation, providing food and other support. A Toronto Star reporter tweeted video of a mostly white crowd marching through Charleston chanting “black lives matter.”
A few days after the shootings, a crowd estimated at more than 10,000 gathered at Charleston’s Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge to honor the victims and to show those who would divide us that South Carolina really is different.
Next, our Legislature voted overwhelmingly to move the Confederate flag from the State House grounds.
Earlier this month, when hundreds of our neighbors lost their homes, an army of volunteers showed up to help, uninvited and unannounced.
Our responses this year have been praised by national media and by politicians across the political spectrum, from Gov. Nikki Haley to President Obama.
Thankfully, the Spring Valley High School encounter did not end in the loss of life. But it is disturbing, as Sheriff Lott said. South Carolinians should ask questions. If any laws were broken, we should expect justice.
But in our response, we should continue being who we are — a community that will not be divided.