My name is Ray Christian; my wife, Tiffany, and I have lived in the community for 17 years and raised 6 children here. My wife previously taught at App State as well and now works for a local business. I have taught as an adjunct professor for App State for just as long and prior to that I served 20 years in the US Army as an infantryman and paratrooper. Moreover, we are one of the few Black families in the county not from Junaluska.
I would like to bring to your attention my concern and distress over the upcoming “Back the Blue” protest scheduled for July 18 in Boone, N.C. My concern is despite the organizers’ insistence to the contrary, this “protest” appears to be political, targeted and in direct response to previous protests/events, most notably the two peaceful protests in Boone led by the Black community. The previous events were graciously supported, respected and empathized with by our local law enforcement. However, I believe this upcoming event has an agenda that goes far beyond simply showing support for law enforcement.
The organizations sponsoring the events and providing speakers include Citizens for America Foundation, a conservative political action group with a clear agenda in opposition to the current social movement for appropriate and consistent accountability for police who use unnecessary, and often deadly, force against Black people. Return America a religious political action group with an expressed anti-gay agenda. BLEXIT is a Conservative political action group veiled as a general Black interest organization, but has no real affiliations or credibility in the local or larger Black American community. Their co-founder, Candace Owens, has publicly stated that the Black Lives Matter movement is irrelevant and wrong and has publicly dismissed the death of George Floyd and minimized his life as being nothing more than that of a criminal, and asserting her support of police over the right of a Black suspect to be handled humanely by law enforcement so that he can have his day in court just as White suspects do.
My concern is that our local law enforcement is inadvertently providing the appearance of complicity with an event organized by groups whose agenda is overly counter the current focus on protecting Black people for brutality and LGBTQ rights. I have no objection to law enforcement doing their jobs and providing security and traffic control as a matter of public safety, but this event seems to imply that law enforcement is participating. If you look into the agendas and schedules speakers, complicity with this event only increases the current atmosphere of fear and suspicion of law enforcement.
Let me be clear: This is not an objection to free speech! I risked my life to protect our freedoms even when I don’t agree. However, my concern is that this is a counter protest with a clear political agenda that is luring in and implying law enforcement involvement under the cloak of “prayer.” Most of the invited speakers (and the organizations they represent) have a history of making homophobic slurs, supporting anti-gay legislation and discrimination, and some have openly expressed indifference to the killings of Blacks by law enforcement.
What does it do for the cause of unity in our community for people of color and the LGBTQ community to see our law enforcement officers clapping and applauding speakers who profess the idea that Black complaints are exaggerated, the death of George Floyd is nothing and that gay people are going to hell? How does this build confidence in law enforcement or departmental morale if we allow them to pit officers against each other and the community?
As small as our community is, our law enforcement is composed of varied racial/ethnic identities and sexual preferences. How does it impact those officers to see their peers and/or superiors involved in and supporting (beyond the public safety responsibilities of their jobs) an event hosting by and promoting political and social agendas that do not support them? I believe that the active participation by law enforcement will be a dangerous setback to the community relations and undo all the goodwill that has been previously expressed and valued.
Please consider the possibility that our local police officers could be used for political purposes. We have Black law enforcement officers in our community and others of us have friends and family that are part of the law enforcement community. We love them and support them in the just and legal execution of their oath to protect and serve. But this protest is set to question that love and support and question the motives of Black protesters by intertwining, religion, politics and support for law enforcement. This only serves to further divide the community.
The press release for this event states that many officers have communicated with the organizers and support this event. If true, this would be disturbing to know that our law enforcement is supporting a political event, which seeks to connect church and state by suggesting officers wear their uniform as they participate. It is inappropriate for off-duty officers to attend in uniform or for our law enforcement agencies to support this event outside the scope of their duty to protect and serve.
Dr. Raymond Christian
SFC (Ret) USA