On this day in 1968, three African American student protesters were killed by police at the Orangeburg Massacre in South Carolina. In addition, 28 others were injured — most of them shot in the back while they were fleeing.
It was part of a protest of racial segregation at the local All Star Bowling Lane. After it happened, Governor Robert McNair said it was one of the “saddest days” in South Carolina history and blamed the deaths on Black Power agitators. As is usually the case, the local authorities did nothing to the police. So the feds stepped in and prosecuted. But all of the police officers were found not guilty. They used a defense that will sound oddly familiar: they felt threatened. I am now calling this the “I Was Vewy Vewy Afwaid” defense.
Again I ask, since police work is thought to be so dangerous, you would think that we would hire brave men to do the job. But instead, we hire cowards who are, in far too many cases, simple psychopaths.
There was one conviction that came out of the Orangeburg Massacre: in 1970, the state of South Carolina found civil rights leader Cleveland Sellers guilty of rioting. He spent seven month in jail for it. So justice was done! Three students killed, many others shot in the back, and the state sends a man to jail for supposedly rioting two days earlier. Go team!
People who think that racism isn’t a defining feature of our society are crazy. And what we saw back then is exactly what we continue to see today. But we elected a black president, so racism is over! Or so the conservatives say. Of course, those same conservatives said racism was over before Obama. And they said it during Jim Crow. Just ask William Buckley: he told the world of 1960 that Jim Crow wasn’t about racism but just African Americans hadn’t reached the grand civilized heights of the whites who were lynching them.
But I guess things like the Orangeburg Massacre are the price we have to pay for making sure that no police officer is ever afraid. Such delicate flowers they are!