1,000 Words: The black officer and white supremacist

This picture of an African-American officer in South Carolina helping a white supremacist at a rally for the Confederate flag a couple of weeks ago had all kinds of symbolism to it.

In this July 18 photo provided by Rob Godfrey, police officer Leroy Smith, left, helps a man wearing National Socialist Movement attire up the stairs during a rally in Columbia, S.C. Smith, the director of South Carolina’s public safety agency, said Monday, July 20, 2015, he hopes the photo that shows him helping the white man wearing a racist T-shirt will be a catalyst for people to work toward overcoming hate and violence. Rob Godfrey, via AP

Leroy Smith is the director of the South Carolina Department of Public Safety.

The New York Times’ Dan Barry wrote over the weekend that Smith didn’t know another officer was taking a picture…

The heat turned up a notch: a bottle thrown, some jostling at the barricades. Mr. Smith called his commanders down to a lower level because, he said, “we were getting ready to work a little.”

Then a demonstrator directed his attention to an older man all but melting on a bottom step. “He looked fatigued, lethargic — weak,” Mr. Smith said. “I knew there was something very wrong with him.”

He called up the steps to the Columbia fire chief, Aubrey Jenkins, for assistance. Then, with his left arm around the man’s back and his right hand on the man’s right arm, he walked the swastika-adorned demonstrator up the steps, as many as 40. Slowly, steadily, all the while giving encouragement:

We’re going to make it. Just keep on going.

A female demonstrator shadowed the climb. On the back of her black shirt appeared a familiar white-supremacist slogan (“Because the beauty of the White Aryan woman must not perish from the earth”). She kept asking Mr. Smith whether the man was going to be all right — as if his safety, as well as his health, might be in some jeopardy.

“I think that’s the greatest thing in the world — love,” Mr. Smith told the New York Times when asked why the photo has such resonance with people. “And that’s why so many people were moved by it.”