There’s a video going viral documenting an incident in Columbia, South Carolina.
A white man by the name of Jonathan Pentland and his wife are seen harassing a young black man, and Pentland shoves him at one point. Pentland aggressively questions the black man, named Deandre, about why he is in the neighborhood, what he’s doing, and where he lives. His wife encourages him. A third white woman is seen on the phone, and it appears as though she is calling the police.
The video is currently going viral after being posted by a user on Twitter who goes by the moniker “Angry Staffer.” He boasts over 380,000 Twitter followers (as of writing this), and his bio states that he is “not a current WH staffer.” The user behind the account called Pentland a “super douche” and asked for more information regarding the individual before “blasting it all over social media”:
One of the first things I noticed about this particular viral racist encounter is that I thought at first that it involved an adult and a “child.” My reaction to the clip was that I was pretty sure that the black man wasn’t even 18, although I could obviously be wrong. “Angry Staffer” apparently seems to agree, adding that the age of the black man is one of the reasons that he released the video:
Of course, there is “good news” here — only in the sense that I’m not writing about a situation where a black man suffered a severe injury or was killed. Shirell Johnson, who was there, has confirmed that Deandre is safe.
Incredibly, the video was recorded by people that did not know Deandre but began recording for his safety. Johnson states that Pentland slapped Deandre’s hand, which led to a cracked phone, and that police eventually arrived.
Let’s examine this more closely.
Pentland Thinks He’s A Different Class Of Citizen
Some think that black people are “exaggerating” when they say that they are treated as second-class citizens. It’s important to note that Pentland not only demands to know personal information about a stranger that he’s never interacted with before, but he also believes that no explanation is needed regarding his behavior.
(0:00) “Go away, right now.”
The first twenty seconds involves Pentland, a U.S. Army member who was promoted to sergeant first class a year ago, telling a black man to leave. The thing is — he’s not a nightclub bouncer or a grown man escorting an intoxicated guest out of his house party…he’s harassing a black man standing on a sidewalk.
(0:20) “Let’s go. Walk away.”
Even though Deandre has not actually done anything, Pentland believes he can determine where he walks. He has no problem escalating the situation.
(0:30) “Walk away. You need help?”
Pentland tries to claim Deandre is “aggressing on the neighborhood.” He is not only telling Deandre to leave but obviously suggesting that he will make him leave if necessary. Pentland then shoves Deandre and yells:
(0:43): You better walk away!
He suddenly shifts the focus to his wife, as if Deandre disrespected his wife in some way (he didn’t). Deandre seems understandably confused as Pentland screams:
(0:48): You’re talking to my wife right now!
Jonathan Pentland understands that he is threatening someone, but doesn’t feel the need to give Deandre his name. While one can argue that this is solely because he understands that the encounter is being recorded — the truth is that Pentland also (in my opinion) truly believes that he can dictate who gets to walk around in his community without any accountability.
(1:15) You’re in the wrong neighborhood, motherfucker. Get out!
It’s insane to me that someone could tell a black man that they are in the “wrong neighborhood” in 2021, know that they are being recorded, and not realize (even if they are very comfortably racist) that their life will probably change for the worse…very rapidly…very quickly.
But here we are.
Intimidating A “Child”
Is it particularly mind-blowing to me that an angry white man is also a U.S. Army Sergeant?
Of course not.
Hey, ask me if it was surprising to find out that the same fort was home to a soldier that had no problem making “racially motivated” posts on social media less than a year ago?
Do me a favor: ask me if I was stunned to read that there was a five-day period at that same fort, where three soldiers were either investigated, suspended, or fired — not for social media comments — but specifically for RACIST social media comments.
It’s all par for the course, especially when you live in a country that elected someone who emboldens white supremacists several years ago. It shouldn’t be shocking that the military is home to racist people. Either way, a US Sargeant intimidating a child like this? Not the best look.
It’s clear that Pentland is racist, but the problem here is that there is no way that even racists can spin this one. That’s how you — if you were a racist that just went viral — KNOW you’re fucked. It obviously looks even worse given Deandre’s lack of hostility towards Pentland.
In less than two hours after the video was tweeted out, The Fort Jackson Commanding General claimed that the behavior “wasn’t condoned” and that “We will get to the bottom of this ASAP”:
His information is also all over Twitter:
This is a man — a supposedly disciplined Army Sergeant — flying off the handle at a black man for existing in a neighborhood. Deandre is just walking around — not a shred of evidence suggesting disturbing the peace, “suspicious behavior” (a racist favorite), or public intoxication.
Pentland, quite literally, acts with less maturity than a wasted frat boy. He tells Deandre to walk away repeatedly. When Deandre walks down the sidewalk, Pentland shoves Deandre and then says again: “You better walk away.”
The message is clear. This isn’t about getting Deandre out of the neighborhood — that isn’t enough. It’s about letting a young black man know that he isn’t welcome there.
(0:53) “Check it out. You either walk away or I’m going to carry your ass out here.”
Again — I will say that I am not entirely sure of Deandre’s age. However, browsing social media will tell you that I wasn’t the only one that thought Deandre could be a teenager. There’s a good chance that Pentland will face more severe consequences as a result, but time will tell.
One of the most disgusting aspects of the video is that the wife seems to know that a police encounter can escalate the tension, and embraces that fact. She knows that Deandre is obviously uncomfortable, but believes that the threat of the police will truly get him to leave. Pentland’s wife is apparently named Cassie:
At the beginning of the video, Deandre seems to understand the ridiculousness of the situation. He visibly shrugs and states calmly, “Call the police.”
Cassie chimes in loudly:
(0:03) “Hey, they’ve already been called!”
It’s almost as if she is frustrated that Deandre ISN’T scared of the police, and is adamant about the fact that he SHOULD feel scared. At around 5 seconds into the clip, she screams: “They’re just waiting!”
Just waiting for what? Like many other racist white women, Cassie seems to believe that the police will inevitably side with her. She speaks of them as if they were created to deal with arresting black men for walking all the time.
It seems as if she truly believes Deandre will be arrested, given her following statement:
(0:06) “You know what, maybe you should hang out a little longer, we will see how it goes.”
This isn’t a standard Karen rant — it’s a bit darker than the usual racist tirades that go viral on social media. The idea is that no matter how aggressive they all are to Deandre — HE is the one that will be in trouble, regardless of what he says, or how it plays out. Like Amy Cooper before her, she is attempting to weaponize the police against a black man minding his business.
At around 20 seconds, she seems to elaborate on her concerns:
(0:20) “Well, you been here like 15 minutes now.”
Ah. Apparently, there is a 15-minute time limit for black people walking in Columbia, South Carolina: fifteen minutes and then they have to get out of random neighborhoods when white people say so! Never knew that.
Around 40 seconds, Deandre has not touched anyone or even raised his voice. What does Pentland’s wife say, clearly?
(0:40) “Pretty sure you’re the aggressor buddy!”
This disgusting woman says this…right before her husband shoves Deandre on a public sidewalk. Not sure that comment aged too well.
Cassie, a white woman, who stated that where SHE lives is none of this individual’s business — suggests cryptically:
(1:21) “Maybe we should walk you home.”
There’s no universe where adults should be speaking like this unless it involves a child or a mental health issue.
I imagine Cassie would probably claim that she “isn’t racist”, and maybe she will speak to the media soon about the incident. I’m sure she will claim that her actions are being misrepresented, but there are cold hard facts here to consider.
Cassie believes that Deandre isn’t entitled to know where she lives. However, she not only thinks that she is entitled to know where HE lives — but that she and her husband should be allowed to “walk him home” after a menacing encounter like this.
I can already hear racists reading this and scoffing: “Well, maybe she would have done this even if he wasn’t black.” Sure. I bet these are the same people standing by the idea that George Floyd overdosed on fentanyl and wasn’t murdered by police officers.
Many white people feel like they can determine the flow of POC throughout specific communities that they might monitor or deem “white,” and then think that you are overreacting if you point out that it makes them a racist.
Once Deandre responds that they can’t walk him home, Jonathan takes it as a challenge. He says:
(1:25) “Oh…you bet? You want to bet what I can do?”
At this point, the video almost seems indistinguishable from a roid-rage compilation that you might find on Youtube, except you realize …you actually realize…
This all started because it’s a black man walking.
Cassie, the woman that suggested that they “walk” Deandre home, has no problem admitting that she believes HER personal information is more valuable than Deandre’s. When Deandre asks how long they have lived here, she wastes no time in responding:
(1:46) “That’s none of your business.”
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Cassie was not only hoping that Deandre would be scared of the police, but insinuating — and even hoping — that the police would escalate the situation to the point where Deandre could get harmed, or even killed.
Deandre Stays Calm
I am sure that you know a person, or several, or an entire bar full of people, that would not react kindly to Pentland’s threats, actions, or overall aggressive aura. It’s hard to find a man over a certain age that hasn’t been in some altercation like this, and it tends to start with the kind of language and posturing that Pentland uses here.
Deandre doesn’t even raise his voice at the man, and Pentland still searches for ways to escalate the tension. That’s one of the more unique aspects of this video — the contrast is so stark that it genuinely reveals Pentland and the fact that he’s a complete racist asshole.
He explains the situation to Pentland calmly, despite Pentland’s aggression. Deandre offers:
(1:18) “I live here, sir.”
Pentland obviously cannot accept this explanation. He has created this idea in his mind about the archetype of the kind of person that lives in this community, and Deandre simply doesn’t fit. The fact that Jonathan may be harassing a child doesn’t matter as much as the fact that he’s a “gatekeeper” for his community.
He claims that Deandre is “harassing the neighborhood.” When Deandre repeats that he lives here, that isn’t good enough for Pentland. He retorts:
Pentland wants to know where Deandre lives. When Deandre asks how long that Pentland has lived here, he responds with:
(1:41) A hell of a lot longer than your ass, because I have never seen you in my life.”
What’s Pentland’s name? How long has HE been living there? None of these questions matter when they come from a young black man — because Deandre isn’t part of the “tight-knit community” that has been cultivated in that neighborhood, apparently.
Black men exist to be questioned, not answered, in Pentland’s world. To the Pentlands, their motives will always be questionable and their presence will always be an issue. But what if it was worse than that? What if the Pentlands actually DIDN’T have some long-standing presence in the community, and they were just full of shit?
Here’s the thing: Pentland just bought his house in that area…ten months ago.
So, when he claims Deandre is “harassing the neighborhood”…he is talking about a neighborhood he moved into less than a year ago.
It’s the kind of thing that happens with law enforcement — police officers can lie, cheat, and interrogate while expecting civilians to comply. While Pentland might not be a police officer, he is military — and the overlap there is quite documented.
I’m 35 and have been thinking about “race” since I was a literal child. No, it does not surprise me that this happened, especially in a state where it took nine black people to die in a mass shooting for there to be a discussion about whether to remove the Confederate Flag from their state house.
The American people elected a president that tried to claim that a movement declaring that black lives actually matter was “bad for black people.” Racists feel more courageous than ever, despite the fact that racists go viral and their lives get upended, seemingly, on a daily basis. We live in a world where you can show actual data about systemic racism to someone, and their response will be somewhere in between “Fake News”, or “I don’t trust that website.”
U.S. Staff Sergeant Jonathan E. Pentland, who has already proven himself to be an incredible piece of shit, reminds me of many drunk frat boys eager to prove their masculinity to each other once he realizes his threatening tactics aren’t working that well.
(1:50) “Get the hell out of my face.”
Deandre points out that he came up to him, not the other way around. That’s how Jonathan Pentland thinks the world works: he can walk up to people and tell them to go somewhere else, and he can get up several inches in someone’s face while telling THEM to “get out” of his own face.
Pentland also managed to avoid an assault charge, according to Shirell Johnson. Apparently, a supervisor informed a police officer that Pentland can only be charged with “malicious injury to property”:
(2:00) “Check it out, motherfucker, I ain’t playing with you. You either get your ass moving, or I’m going to move you.”
(2:04) I’m about to show you what I can do.”
I want to say something to Jonathan Pentland.
Social media is actually about to show you what IT can do, and it won’t be pretty.
We do have social media to thank for the fact that Jonathan Pentland wanted to be a tough guy. It’s wild to me, though.
For a man that talked SO much shit, and is so concerned about governing public spaces…why did you go private?
Why do you now have “nothing to say?”
UPDATE (As of April 16th, 2021):
Richland County Sherriff Leon Lott held a press conference about the incident:
Pentland has now been criminally charged with a misdemeanor: third-degree assault and battery.
Fort Jackson confirmed, on Twitter, that Pentland was suspended from “instructor duties”:
There have been protests outside of Pentland’s home:
Pentland and his family are reportedly not staying at that location anymore, due to the house being vandalized:
For additional context, follow @SSaJC on Twitter, who has done excellent work documenting the protests: