A flyer supporting Ray Pickett’s run for the North Carolina House of Representatives arrived in my mailbox on June 20. It wasn’t the first or the last of the political mail I have received from the shadowy Citizens for a Better NC House. This one especially captured my attention because of the provocative statement it made about Pickett’s intentions once elected. The flyer said, “In Raleigh, Ray will stand up to radical left-wing groups that vilify and want to defund our sheriff deputies, police officers and Highway Patrolman.” The statement appeared to reference the current concerns about police brutality against blacks by turning the protestors into the enemy and relieving law enforcement of accountability.
George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis, Minn., police officers on May 25, shocked the world and set off protests against police brutality and systemic racism. To the black community, the horrific circumstances of Floyd’s death is an all-too-common experience. The community lives in fear of their lives being devalued by law enforcement and the criminal justice system. The declaration and social protest movement “Black Lives Matter” were birthed from this reality.
The words employed to support Pickett are strikingly similar to President Donald Trump’s in delegitimizing the groups and individuals who are protesting and working to end police violence and systemic racism. Trump addressed the nation on July 3 and said, “We are now in the process of defeating the radical left, the Marxists, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters and people who, in many instances, have absolutely no clue what they are doing.” His remarks represent a continuation of his stoking white supremacist support of his presidency with dog whistles and not so veiled racist statements against peaceful protestors. This is the Republican Party under Trump.
I asked Pickett for clarification on the flyer. He responded that he didn’t know which groups the flyer was referring to. He added that he was for safer communities for everyone in Ashe and Watauga Counties. When asked questions about concerns the black community might have, he ignored the questions. If the black community lives in fear of being dehumanized by law enforcement how will Pickett cause them to feel safe? After a search of his online media, I was unable to locate any statements supportive of the black community’s struggle for racial justice.
Does Ray Pickett believe black lives matter? It’s a question he needs to answer.