A fire chief in South Carolina who expressed racist sentiments via social media has been disciplined for his discriminatory comments against Black people.
McDonald Green Volunteer Fire Department Chief Francis “Butch” Ghent has been placed on two weeks of administrative leave pending an investigation into a racist Facebook post from last week that seemed to make it clear where his loyalties lie when it comes to police encounters in Black communities.
In a response to the scourge of police using lethal force against Black people, Ghent proposed on his personal Facebook page that cops should just ignore calls for help that come from Black communities. Ghent also suggested that Black people will self-destruct and condemned the media coverage of police shootings involving Black victims, local news outlet WBTV reported.
“Dear Police, stop responding to these black neighborhoods,” Ghent wrote in a since-deleted status update that was posted on April 22. “They will eventually kill each other and the fake news won’t have a story.”
Ghent’s Facebook comments don’t bode well for Black people who live in the town of Lancaster, where the McDonald Green Volunteer Fire Department serves.
“When we have our leaders bring racism into the city, we have a serious problem,” Ray Murray told Channel 9. “I wonder how long it’s gonna take him to get to my house to put out the fire.”
Ghent, of course, said he was sorry and suggested his words were taken out of context.
“I guess it was racially insensitive. I did not mean it that way,” Ghent said.
“Sometimes you just do stupid stuff,” Ghent explained to Channel 9.
Ghent said the Facebook post was an angry reaction to the news coverage of the Ma’Khia Bryant police shooting in Columbus, Ohio, where an officer shot the 16-year-old girl while she was wielding a kitchen knife. Unbeknownst to the officer, Bryant was purportedly defending herself from an attack moments earlier not witnessed by police. The ensuring news coverage centered not just on how quickly the police resorted to using lethal force against Bryant, but also against Black people in general.
Ghent said he was tired of the media disrespecting the police but admitted he could have used a better choice of words.
“I just want to apologize to the Black community,” Ghent said. “I didn’t mean it as an attack on them. I was after the news media more than anything else.”
Ghent can’t be fired because he serves in an unpaid volunteer capacity.
The opinion expressed by Ghent is likely one shared by others who resent the portrayal of police in the media following the unabated police killings of Black people who are unarmed in many of those instances.
Of course, the crucial context missing from Ghent’s Facebook post was how Bryant was the third Black person to be killed by the Columbus Police Department under controversial circumstances in the past four months. Her killing also came on the same day former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty and convicted of murder for killing George Floyd. That was sandwiched between the Minnesota police killing of Daunte Wright, a young, Black driver shot to death after he was pulled over for a minor, nonviolent traffic infraction, and police in North Carolina killing Andrew Brown Jr. as he was driving away from them just last week.
Ghent was placed on leave just around the same time it was reported that the judge presiding in the legal battle over bodycam footage of Brown’s killing had previously expressed pro-police sentiments via his personal Facebook page.