Social media post by sheriff candidate stirs controversy
Posted June 5, 2020 5:53 p.m. EDT
Updated June 7, 2020 11:25 a.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — A Facebook post by a candidate for sheriff in Wake County is stirring controversy, especially given the current debates about systemic racism and police brutality against people of color.
David Blackwelder announced in January he's running for the Republican nomination for the Wake County sheriff's race in 2022. He has been employed at Wake Technical Community College as a police officer for at least the past two years.
“We are aware of the social media comments … Please know that those comments do not reflect Wake Tech’s views and we have addressed them,” a spokeswoman said.
Blackwelder was commenting back and forth with Raleigh native Dustin Pickett when he typed, "As a person of color, you are afforded way more opportunities than a white male ... it just depends on whether you accept them."
Pickett was incredulous.
"To see all of these things happening and to have someone make that statement," Pickett said. "For me, it was deeply troubling and extremely insensitive for someone who is running for the sheriff’s office."
Blackwelder didn't expect his Facebook post to get so much attention. He told WRAL News he was talking about opportunities like scholarships and job placement.
“You have plenty, as a person of color, plenty of opportunity. It’s just a matter if you choose to accept that," Blackwelder said.
"I mean, granted when you’re in those — trapped in those communities from poverty and things like that, it is difficult to overcome them, and ultimately, that’s why we have to have the reforms in place," Blackwelder said. "Because the opportunity is there for them to go to college. It’s just a matter of how we get them from point A to point B.”
"That completely dismisses the ways in which systemic racism functions in this country," said Pickett, a Ph.D. student attending at the University of Dayton in Ohio. "We’re talking about 400 years of slavery. We’re talking about Jim Crow. We’re talking about redlining, mass incarceration."
"We see time and time again where black and brown people have tried to progress, and have been pushed back. For every forward step they have taken, they have been knocked back two or three steps," Pickett told WRAL News. "We don’t even have to look at the history of this nation. It is happening in modern-day times."
"To just say pull yourself up by your bootstraps – it’s deeply problematic," he added.
Blackwelder said he thinks people on all sides of the conversation need to be willing to listen and not be in fear of retaliation that could deepen the divide.
He released a statement from his campaign on Sunday said:
"My heart has been heavy these last few days after I reflected on a conversation I had with an individual, who may have been offended by what I said. I promise to everyone that my words were made with the best intentions. I wanted to let the community know that I should have chosen better wording and it was not my intent to offend or cause further divide.
It was a small part of a broad conversation, where several people were discussing current issues. Its purpose was to be informative and not with malice. I have always championed the idea of 80/20, where we may not agree with 20%, but lets work with the 80%. I am always willing to be involved in conversations and understand everyone’s viewpoint. I want everyone to know that I am here to listen to you and your concerns.
I am willing to do whatever it takes to bring people together and I understand that online isn’t the best way to carry on a conversation. I am here to serve all people of the community and everyone deserves to be heard."
Blackwelder also ran unsuccessfully for the county board of commissioners in 2018.