While telling the story of the Louisiana police officer who openly admits to sharing racist memes—including one suggesting white people should drown their daughters if they likes black boys—we should not call him “a racist.”
To avoid looking one-sided and to portray ourselves as objective truth-tellers, journalists should refrain from calling anyone a “racist.” Instead of characterizing them, one should only refer to actions. I learned this rule a long time ago and have heard it repeated many times. (Mostly by white people, but I’m sure that doesn’t mean anything, right?) As with many things, this guideline excludes white people from the laws of language. If white supremacists commit an act of terrorism, they are not terrorists, they are “troubled.” White gangbangers are “club members.” White nationalists are properly referred to as “economically anxious.”
Therefore, even though Wayne Welsh, the new police chief in Estherwood, La., shared Islamophobic and anti-black social media memes, he’s not necessarily racist. He’s a racism enthusiast, a white supremacy aficionado, a connoisseur of blatant bigotry.
As The Root previously reported, in 2017, as Estherwood’s assistant chief of police, Welsh came under fire for sharing a drawing of a mother pushing her daughter’s head into the tub. The illustration was captioned: “When your daughters [sic] first crush is a little negro boy.”
After the resulting uproar when the post went viral on Twitter, Welsh took the post down, announced that he would tender his resignation and everyone was satisfied. The Root’s Monique Judge reported:
Chief Ernest Villejoin Sr. told KATC that he spoke with Welsh by phone Tuesday morning. Villejoin said that although Welsh had apologized, he would not tolerate this kind of behavior, and he personally apologized for Welsh’s actions. Welsh is expected to turn in his resignation Tuesday evening.
Except, none of that happened because Wayne Welsh is
a racist liar not very experienced in truth-telling. Welsh never lost his job because Chief Villejoin untethered his remark about not tolerating Welsh’s behavior from the truth. Some people call that a “lie,” but you know the rules.
According to CNN, Welsh was briefly named interim police chief last year until he ran unopposed for the seat in November. Donald Popp, the new mayor of Estherwood, said Welsh’s racist meme was a “big misunderstanding,” seeming to indicate that either Welsh is illiterate and didn’t understand the words on the post or that Popp is also a big racism advocate.
“As the new mayor, I don’t see any problems or foresee any future problems with him. I was hoping this would have been taken care of,” said Popp, who was not mayor when Welsh thought it would be hilarious to share a little bit of ethnic cleansing bathroom humor.
Welsh sent a text to CNN, writing:
“Two years ago i shared a picture on facebook that i got a lot of heat over because it was said to be racism at the time i didn’t think so it was just something i was sharing off facebook I was suspended from the police dept at the time for what i did and apologized on facebook and on the live news Later I ran for police chief and the town voted for me as there new chief
“What happen two years ago is behind me and my punishment was done to me,” Welsh texted to CNN. “And now I’m moving forward with my life and as the new chief of police.”
The town of about 960 is 2.9 percent black and 91.1 percent white. Six black residents in Estherwood declined to talk to CNN on the record because they feared retaliation.
I wonder what they were so afraid of?
I mean, I know that the person who is literally in charge of the law in a tiny, white Southern town was bold enough to share his racism with the world and paid absolutely no penalty for doing so. Sure, the mayor, the former police chief and the citizens who put Welsh in power don’t seem to care; but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the black people have anything to fear. If we are adhering to the rules, the town isn’t racist, remember?
They just promote people who do racist things.
Some might argue that we refer to people who farm as “farmers” and people who dance as “dancers,” but those people are using logic and common sense, something that people who buy lotion based on SPF need not worry about. Just because one does a thing, it doesn’t mean they are that thing.
And Wayne Welsh isn’t a racist. He’s a “former participant in racist activities.” He’s a discrimination devotee. A prejudice proponent. A defender of daughter-drowning.
Or alternately, just white.