America is a country plagued by racism. Our long and difficult history of race relations is one that will take many years to heal. With every discussion, every meaningful argument, and every thoughtful word we step a little bit closer to where we need to be.

But, by that same token, every misstep sends us back farther than we may realize.

On August 28 in Claremont, New Hampshire, a small New England town of 13,000 people, an 8-year-old biracial boy named Quincy was pushed off of a picnic bench with a rope tied around his neck by teenagers who told him to wear the rope. 

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The 8-year-old, clawing at his neck, would turn purple before he was finally able to free himself.

Claremont police chief Mark T. Chase has made it clear that he will not discuss details of the case because of the age of everyone involved. Being under 14 means that the suspects and the victim are protected by confidentiality laws.

Chase defended his decision to keep mum on the case, saying, “mistakes [the attackers] make as a young child should not have to follow them for the rest of their life.”

The family, along with local activists, have criticized Chase for this statement. While teenagers like Trayvon Martin are made out to be big hulking thugs, these young attackers need to be forgiven, for lack of a better word.

Since the public’s reaction to the attack has grown in rage over the past few weeks, a larger investigation by state authorities into whether or not a hate crime occurred has begun. Governor Christopher Sununu stated, “It is my expectation that local and state authorities will investigate appropriately and I’ve asked for regular updates on how things are proceeding.

“Hate and bigotry will not be tolerated in New Hampshire.”

In a Facebook post typed by Chase made on the 12th, it’s made very clear that the Claremont Police Department is taking the matter very seriously but that they are still unable to give any details of the attack.

Even though the attack was vicious, police are bound by confidentiality laws to keep quiet on the details. The family and public are angry, and rightfully so. They want the attackers to be held accountable, and they understandably don’t have much faith in a department whose chief has labeled the attack as a “mistake.”

When we live in an environment as racially tense as ours, it’s important that our authority figures make an effort to combat any challenge to racial justice. We need our leaders to stand strong against racial injustice. We need our community leaders, our neighbors, our friends and our families to take the difficult, but imperative, steps to heal our racial divide.