As protests in Charlotte, North Carolina, continue to be held in response to the fatal police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, Donald Trump's campaign seems intent on politicizing the tragedy in a most contentious way. Scott, 43, who was shot outside of an apartment complex in Charlotte on Sept. 20, is the second victim of a police shooting to receive national attention in just this past week. And Trump's running mate Mike Pence made some statements on the recent shootings and protests, in which he blasted the debate on "institutional racism," for creating more division in the country. A lot of people have a problem with what he had to say. And rightfully so.
The comments, made during a round table discussion in a Colorado Springs church held with pastors on Thursday afternoon, seemed to suggest that too much attention is given to police shootings and the protests that have flared in response to such shootings.
"We ought to set aside this talk, this talk about institutional racism and institutional bias," Pence said. "Police officers are human beings and in difficult and life-threatening situations, mistakes are made and people have to be held to strict account." Pence added that there will be a "thorough investigation and that justice will be served," but on the same token stated that "too much of our politics in recent years has been about dividing the American people."
These comments come after Donald Trump's recent Fox News interview, in which he accused police of being too fearful to adequately keep city streets safe.
"Our local police — they know who a lot of these people are. They are afraid to do anything about it because they don't want to be accused of profiling," Trump said.
Both comments sparked national outrage on social media. For starters, the statements sound utterly tone-deaf and display an aversion to facing the fact that human lives are being lost to aggressive policing. One can only wonder why Pence would chose to emphasize the fact that police are "human" and therefore prone to making mistakes, instead of discussing the dangers of racial profiling. That fact that police are human beings was never a question. But saying that the media is creating a "rhetoric of division," is most definitely one that is up for some serious debate.
Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the country's largest police union, just endorsed Trump. Pence also seemed to take aim at Clinton's comments in response to the Tulsa and Charlotte shootings and the subsequent protests. Clinton reportedly said during a phone call with Charlotte officials that the "the bonds of trust between police officers and the communities they serve" need to be restored. Clinton also reportedly said during the phone call that "too many black Americans have lost their lives and too many feel that their lives are disposable." These comments were echoed earlier in the week when she called the shooting of an unarmed black male, Terence Crutcher, "unbearable." Trump also said in a tweet that the situations in Tulsa and Charlotte are "tragic." The tweet went on to say, "We must come together to make America safe again."
But Pence's latest statements are a different story. To imply that those who address the concerns of those who protest aggressive policing are creating division in this country is ignoring the very motivation of the protest. And that's not to say that violent protest is the answer, either. In fact, many politicians and luminaries, such as Isaiah Washinton, are encouraging people to use peaceful avenues to bringing about change. One man, 26-year-old Justin Carr, died Thursday after being shot during a protest in Charlotte. Police are looking into who fired the shot.
Violent protest will not solve the problems of how to deal with policing in this country. But ignoring the fact that racial profiling exists definitely isn't the answer, either.