It’s commonly believed that protesters in Charlotte, North Carolina, are angry and upset about what they say is the wrongful shooting of a black man by police on Tuesday, and systemic racial injustice across the country. In an interview with the BBC on Thursday, U.S. representative Robert Pittenger, whose district includes parts of Charlotte, offered an alternate explanation.
“The grievance in their minds — the animus, the anger — they hate white people because white people are successful and they’re not,” Pittenger said. “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 they’re capable of being.”
Unsurprisingly, this analysis did not go over well. Within hours, Pittenger, who is up for reelection, issued an apology.
Pittenger could have avoided this unfortunate incident if he’d followed Republican vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence’s advice regarding Charlotte: Just stand by police and stop talking about racism in America altogether. “We ought to set aside this talk, this talk about institutional racism and institutional bias,” Pence said, dismissing those complaints as the “rhetoric of division.”
Besides, as Donald Trump explained earlier on Thursday, police brutality in black communities isn’t what’s really fueling the unrest. “If you’re not aware, drugs are a very, very big factor in what you’re watching on television,” he said.