Some losing perspective on decency

Published 4:19 pm Wednesday, July 26, 2023

By Justice Bill Cunningham (retired)


As a father of five grown sons, I’m deeply disturbed by an article published recently in the Charleston, South Carolina Post and Courier newspaper.


Here is the story, taken completely from the newspaper account. 


Just before 10 p.m. on the night of June 3 of this year, two white police officers pulled over a 20- year-old black, female driver in the city of Bamberg, South Carolina.  She was being stopped for having an unlit license plate. 


The officers were professional and courteous in asking for her license and proof of insurance. The young black lady was a brat.  She was loud, foul mouth and disrespectful.  She reminded the officers that her mother was Captain Lartarcha Wilson, the Jail Director of the county.  When the young offender was unable to locate her insurance card, the officers permitted her to make a call to her mom.  


Unbeknownst to the mother, her misbehaving daughter put the conversation on speaker phone so the officers could hear all that was said.  The mother proceeded to do the right thing…urging her daughter to settle down, be calm, and be respectful and courteous to the officers.  The problem was that while she sent the right message, she used the wrong verbiage.


Or did she?


The mother basically told her daughter in some pretty, raw language, “they will lock your ass up for nothing.  Them (expletive) crackers don’t give an (expletive) about you.”


Remember.  This is what the mother thought was a private conversation between a mother and her 20-year-old tempestuous daughter.  The daughter is a victim of the Woke generation, most likely possessed of the misguided and perverted notion that all police officers are racists. 


One of the officers injected into the phone conversation that he did not appreciate Captain Lartacha Wilson’s remarks.  Her response was that of surprise, “I didn’t know I was on speaker phone.”  


The daughter calmed down, and the officers gave her a citation.  She flipped the officers the finger as she drove off into the night.


That should have been the end of the unpleasant encounter.


Instead, the officers filed a complaint against the mother, a fellow officer of sorts, and she is dismissed.  Or, as in most of these kinds of cases…given the opportunity to resign.  Said the Police Chief for whom she worked, “there is just no room for that here.”


Room for what?


Captain Wilson is a black mom, off duty, called at home by her unruly daughter who has just been pulled over by the police and is not acting very nice.                                                              


This mother knows her daughter.  She knows she is not going to calm her down by quoting scripture.  She speaks to her in the language she understands. 


I’m sure the police chief did what he thought was right.  He probably thought that if the roles were reversed and there were black officers being called the N word by the white head of the jail, the axe would have to fall.


So, he overreacts.  Like many of our public officials, he could use a refresher course in perspective.


The word “cracker” has a complicated history, going back to frontier days in Maryland, Virginia, and Georgia.  It was simply a poor, white, red-neck southern male…who might or might not be racist.  Of course, being in that ancient time and place, most of them probably were.  But, if you are proud of growing up southern, white and poor and beat the odds…then “cracker” can be a badge of honor.  One of my best friends in the Army was black.  Good naturedly and in the best of humor he called me “cracker” from time to time.  I would never have dreamed of calling him the N word. 


An interesting side note as to the word’s varied acceptance.  Long before the Atlanta Braves came to that city, their professional baseball team was proudly called the Crackers.  Before the integration of professional baseball there was even a black professional Atlanta team called the Atlanta Black Crackers.  


My point?  While in today’s super touchy culture, it might be considered derogatory, it’s not a word to be fired over. 


I’ve had the privilege to work with some of the best cops God ever made.  I can’t think of a one who would have filed a complaint over the comments of a parent who had used her parental skills and vocabulary to get them out of a potentially very nasty situation.  My battle worn old friends would have considered it unfair to take advantage of a mother in her hour of maximum exposure. 


The whole thing seems extremely unfair to me.  Another example of the overblown and hysterical reaction to anything remotely to do with race.  It’s like grown up blacks and whites cannot not take care of themselves.  It is unfair to use what the mother considered a private conversation with her daughter in a tense late-night encounter with the police, to have her fired.    She apologized, explaining “It wasn’t about them (policemen).  I was trying to explain to my daughter that she needed to calm down.” 


After 17 years, and without a single disciplinary action reported in the article, Lartacha is canned.  


If the article covers all we need to know, I’m standing with Lartacha.  If I’m trying to talk my son off a ledge fifty floors above the ground, I’m going to use whatever language works to get him back through the window.  You can have the job.