Racial tension remains rife in South Carolina. Yesterday (July 18), members of the Ku Klux Klan clashed with a group called Black Educators for Justice with ties to the New Black Panther party outside the South Carolina state house.
That’s the location where, until recently, the Confederate battle flag had flown for more than 50 years, in the state where nine black churchgoers were shot and killed by a professed white supremacist in June. Around 2,000 people were gathered at one point, some waving Confederate flags and at least one with a Nazi flag.
But amid the strife and violence, a distinctly different moment stood out: A photo taken at the event shows Leroy Smith, a black police officer, helping an older white supremacist to the shade as he struggles under the sun and pounding South Carolina heat.
The tired-looking elderly man wears the attire of the National Socialist Movement, including a t-shirt bearing a swastika. Officer Smith holds his arm to steady him.
The irony of a black man assisting a professed racist seems to have struck a chord around the world. Or perhaps it’s the extraordinary forbearance and kindness of officer Smith, which offers an irresistible glimpse of humanity at its best.