Congressman says Charlotte protesters “hate white people,” clearly not understanding Black Lives Matter

During an interview on BBC Newsnight Thursday night, North Carolina Congressman Robert Pittenger said protesters  in Charlotte “hate white people.” The Republican representative demonstrated an alarming amount of ignorance towards the plight of the Black Lives Matter activists in Charlotte protesting the shooting of Keith Scott at the hands of the police. When asked by the interviewer about the grievances driving the protests near his hometown, Pittenger had an alarmingly tone-deaf rebuttal.

He said: “The grievance in their mind is the animus, the anger. They hate white people because white people are successful and they’re not. I mean, yes, it is, it is a welfare state. We have spent trillions of dollars on welfare, and we’ve put people in bondage so they can’t be all that they are capable of being.”

There is a lot of willful ignorance to unpack in this one statement: there’s the assumption that all Black Lives Matters protesters are black, when in reality there are many diverse coalition members; there’s the false equivalence he made between desiring justice for murder and hating white people; but most importantly is Pittenger’s blindness to the state-sanctioned violence against black people. Beyond the documented fact that Black Lives Matters is a peaceful organization, what Pittenger truly seems unable to grasp is the fact that even if resources were evenly distributed between white Americans and black Americans — which they statistically aren’t — the issue of being shot by the police stands as a separate albeit connected issue.

Many of the victims of police brutality had families and careers, and while it’s grossly irrelevant to quantify someone’s life in those terms, if Pittenger wants to claim the protests are about petty jealousy and not racist violence, even that point doesn’t stand under analysis.

Unsurprisingly, Pittenger’s interview received immediate backlash from people on Twitter as well as politicians from his own state bemoaning the blatant display of ignorance.

Following the immediate flood of post-interview backlash, Pittenger posted an apology statement on his website that claimed his comments were hastily made out of anguish:

“What is taking place in my hometown right now breaks my heart. My anguish led me to respond to a reporter’s question in a way that I regret.  The answer doesn’t reflect who I am. I was quoting statements made by angry protestors last night on national TV. My intent was to discuss the lack of economic mobility for African-Americans because of failed policies. I apologize to those I offended and hope we can bring peace and calm to Charlotte.”

The quick switch from claiming protesters hate white people and are fully provided with equal amounts of resources and safety, yet fail to utilize them to claiming he was going to discuss policies addressing inequality feels opportunist at best. However, hopefully this fumbling interview can point him in a different direction, because now isn’t a time to be teaching public officials Institutional Racism 101.