Our country has an ugly history of racism and bigotry, and the chapters are still being written today.
Our nation was built on the backs of slaves whose descendants have been disenfranchised, discriminated against, segregated and lynched. This is the bitter truth that all of us have to acknowledge no matter our skin color or political beliefs. Racism is still alive in America, and to pretend we live in a post-racial world is either wishful thinking or denial.
We’re too young as a country to have already moved on from our shameful past. Our legacy of slavery, segregation and denial of basic civil rights is so heinous that it will continue to have lingering effects for generations.
I say all this in an attempt to set the tone for our community moving forward as we talk about what happened this weekend in DeLand.
As many of you have seen on video, our deputies and police officers were dispersing large block parties this weekend and had just made a lawful arrest of a convicted felon handling a loaded gun when parts of the crowd turned against them, throwing bottles and glass jars.
The behavior from the crowd was unacceptable and dangerous. The deputies and police officers did the best they could in extremely difficult circumstances, and I commend every one of them for resolving the situation without retaliation, prejudice or fear.
Online, the reaction to the video footage has been varied. I believe most saw the video for what it is: A few outnumbered deputies and police officers trying their best to shut down a party that got too large at night, and blocked too many streets and neighborhoods. There was a gun pointed at a crowd and a deputy; there was a shooting that thankfully didn’t kill anyone. We had a responsibility to be there and to disperse the crowds.
Because the majority of those in the crowd were black, and the deputies and police were white, we are now having to having hard conversations about race, racism and inequality.
I don’t accept the accusations that our deputies and police are racists, or that their actions Saturday were racially motivated. It’s not true, and it’s not a fair conclusion from the video.
But given everything we know about our nation’s history, I also know those feelings aren’t just about Saturday night.
That’s why I’m asking everyone to hit pause and take a second to cool off, myself included.
Just as we often ask our critics not to judge law enforcement by the bad actions of a few, we can’t pass broad judgment on others.
To those of you who have spoken out in our defense, I sincerely thank you for your support of our deputies and police. To those of you who are angry about the behavior of the crowd, believe me, I understand.
But before you post a comment that dehumanizes a group of people based on their race, I ask that you remember the context of how we got to this point in America, and the pain that others are still feeling.
The way through stuff like this is together, not divided.