In his long career as an accomplished journalist working across the American South, Steve Crump has come face-to-face with hatred and bigotry.
The Emmy-winning journalist spent time reporting on the Ku Klux Klan in which he, a black man, interviewed members of the organization, people who by their very membership profess to hate him due to the color of his skin.
For all that, though, Crump, 59, told The Washington Post that he’s never felt the blunt hatred he did in Charleston, S.C., on Oct. 8.
Crump, who works for WBTV in Charlotte, was in Charleston working on a story about cleanup following Hurricane Matthew. Along with his camera crew, he was filming near the southern tip of the peninsula when he came across a young white man, he and later police identified as 21-year-old Brian Eybers, holding an iPad, apparently producing some sort of “citizen journalism,” as Crump put it.
The man, watching the WBTV crew, was narrating his story into the tablet when Crump caught wind of what he was saying.
“He basically said, ‘There’s a black guy here. No, wait a minute, he’s a slave. No wait a minute, he’s a ‘n-word,’ ” Crump told The Post.
Added Crump, “I went from 0 to 60 in an instant, just like that. I just turned to [my cameraman] and said, ‘We need to get this guy on tape.’” (The result can be viewed above, with offensive language bleeped.)
Charleston’s racial history, like that of other Southern cities, isn’t pretty, and recent events have only reinforced that. The Gullah population, descendants of enslaved Western African peoples in the Lowcountry, can be seen selling handwoven baskets to wealthy white patrons in the city’s palm tree-lined French Quarter, where high-end restaurants from celebrity chefs like Sean Brock collect tourist dollars by the fistful.
That disparity is difficult to miss in the Holy City, so named for the many steeples dotting the skyline.
Crump and the young man were near the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist but Mother Emanuel AME Church sat only 10 blocks away. It was there, in June 2015, that Dylann Roof was accused of killing nine black worshipers. Crump stood in that church, hours later, blood still drying. He stood there again a year later, to cover the wretched anniversary.
After the shooting, the family members of those slain chose to follow scripture by offering forgiveness, an act that turned the city of Charleston into a “disarmed powdered keg,” Crump said.
Naturally, all of this raged through Crump’s head as he stormed toward Eybers. After all, Crump, a great-great grandson of Kentucky slaves, spent his career considering race relations.
As Dennis Milligan, WBTV’s news director, told the Charlotte Observer, “You could safely call Steve the leading civil rights reporter in town with his documentaries and daily stories.”
Crump told The Post that in the moment, he faced a simple but difficult question: “Do you respond to it, or not? Do you let it stand?”
Given the city’s recent history, he decided he couldn’t let it stand.
“Say that a little bit louder,” Crump said to Eybers on tape. “Come on, what did you just call me?”…Read the rest here, including how the young man wound up in jail….