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June 22, 2015 1

What Should We Tell Our Children About Charleston?

Credit: Stephen Melkisethian / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Credit: Stephen Melkisethian / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

As we grieve, protest and fur­ther inves­ti­gate the hor­rific mur­der of nine African Amer­i­can parish­ioners at the his­toric Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, many peo­ple are ask­ing: What should we tell the children?

Par­ents, fam­ily mem­bers and oth­ers are some­times uneasy about dis­cussing issues of vio­lence and injus­tice with chil­dren because they want to pro­tect them from ter­ri­ble and scary top­ics. How­ever, it is impor­tant that chil­dren have a lan­guage for dis­cussing the unfair­ness and injus­tice they see in the world and that as adults, we model that these con­ver­sa­tions are ones we are will­ing to engage in as we assure them that we are work­ing to coun­ter­act injustice.

Except for very young chil­dren, it is impor­tant to raise the issue with chil­dren. It is likely that with online access and the 24/7 hour news cycle, many young peo­ple have already heard about it and may be look­ing for an oppor­tu­nity to learn more. In talk­ing with chil­dren about emo­tion­ally chal­leng­ing top­ics, remem­ber to:

  • Give them the time and space to express their feel­ings (what­ever those feel­ings are) and actively lis­ten with empa­thy and compassion.
  • Find out what they already know, clar­ify any mis­in­for­ma­tion they have and answer their ques­tions. If you don’t know the answer, be hon­est about that and find out the answer together.
  • In an age-appropriate way and using lan­guage they can under­stand, share your own thoughts, feel­ings and spe­cific val­ues about the topic.
  • Give youth infor­ma­tion about what is being done to make things safe and what actions are tak­ing place to coun­ter­act the injustice.

Here are spe­cific talk­ing points you may want to cover with young people:

Words and sym­bols matter

We have heard that the alleged shooter, Dylann Storm Roof, told racist jokes and spewed biased ide­ol­ogy. A con­tem­po­rary of Roof’s said “He made a lot of racist jokes, but you don’t really take them seri­ously like that.” Hate has the poten­tial to esca­late and the Pyra­mid of Hate illus­trates how biased behav­iors and attitudes—when left unchallenged—can lead to more seri­ous acts of dis­crim­i­na­tion and bias-motivated vio­lence such as the one per­pe­trated in Charleston. If those atti­tudes, beliefs and behav­iors were ques­tioned and addressed, per­haps there would have been dif­fer­ent out­comes and those nine lives would not have been taken.

Sym­bols are forms of com­mu­ni­ca­tion that con­vey impor­tant mes­sages to chil­dren about what we value, what is impor­tant and what kind of soci­ety we want to cre­ate. Hate sym­bols, espe­cially when dis­sem­i­nated and per­va­sive, com­mu­ni­cate that hate and bias are accept­able. Roof had patches on his jacket of flags of regimes in South African and Rhode­sia that enforced the vio­lent white minor­ity rule. He was also seen in sev­eral pho­tos with a Con­fed­er­ate flag, which has come to sym­bol­ize racial hatred and big­otry. Iron­i­cally, the flag is still dis­played in South Carolina’s state­house grounds in Colum­bia and activists and elected offi­cials have been press­ing for its removal for years.

Racism is sys­temic and can be overcome

While Roof was not a for­mal mem­ber of a white suprema­cist orga­ni­za­tion, he espoused white supremacy ide­ol­ogy that is preva­lent, online and world­wide. In address­ing this topic with young peo­ple, we need to give them hope and inspi­ra­tion by show­ing them that we have come a long way on issues of race and other social jus­tice issues by push­ing for leg­is­la­tion, edu­cat­ing peo­ple and tak­ing action. At the same time, it is also impor­tant that we con­nect the dots so that young peo­ple under­stand that issues such as school seg­re­ga­tion, racial dis­par­i­ties in the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem and vot­ing rights are not indi­vid­ual acts but are part of a larger sys­tem and that if soci­etal change is going to take place, the solu­tions also need to be systemic.

Activism makes a difference

Since the mur­ders last week, there have been protests across the coun­try and in Charleston and Colum­bia, SC specif­i­cally call­ing pub­lic offi­cials to take down the Con­fed­er­ate flag as a first step. On Sun­day, in a mov­ing demon­stra­tion of empa­thy and con­nec­tion, church bells across Charleston tolled for nine min­utes to sym­bol­ize the nine vic­tims. We know that our nation has a long his­tory of activism that has brought about sig­nif­i­cant social change–from mar­riage equal­ity to immi­gra­tion reform and the recent “Black Lives Mat­ter” move­ment. One of the most impor­tant prin­ci­ples we can con­vey to our chil­dren is that their voices and actions make a dif­fer­ence and will help to build a bet­ter world.

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June 19, 2015 0

Murders in Charleston Again Demonstrate the Tragic Impact of Hate Violence

The hor­ri­ble mur­ders of nine parish­ioners dur­ing a June 17 evening prayer meet­ing at the his­toric Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Car­olina seem like a night­mare.  But they were real – hor­rific and sense­less.  And they were hate crimes.  The nature of the shoot­ings, the spe­cific loca­tion, the tar­geted vic­tims, state­ments allegedly made by the sus­pect, and a Face­book pro­file of the sus­pect wear­ing white suprema­cist sym­bols all indi­cate this tragedy was moti­vated by racial bias.

It is note­wor­thy that these race-based mur­ders hap­pened in one of only five states that has yet to enact a hate crimes law.  The time has come for that to change.

AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton

AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton

Obvi­ously, con­victed mur­der­ers already face the most severe penal­ties under the law in every state.    But hate crimes laws have a sig­nif­i­cance that extends beyond the tougher sen­tences they per­mit.  They are a strong soci­etal response to crimes specif­i­cally intended to intim­i­date the vic­tim and mem­bers of the victim’s com­mu­nity.  By mak­ing mem­bers of minor­ity com­mu­ni­ties fear­ful, angry, and sus­pi­cious of other groups – and of the power struc­ture that is sup­posed to pro­tect them – these mes­sage crimes can dam­age the fab­ric of our soci­ety and frag­ment communities.

The FBI and law enforce­ment offi­cials rec­og­nize the spe­cial impact of hate crimes.  The FBI has been col­lect­ing hate crime data from the 18,000 police agen­cies across the coun­try since 1990.   In 2013, the most recent FBI data avail­able, almost 6,000 hate crimes were reported by over 15,000 police depart­ments – almost one every 90 min­utes of every day.  Race-based hate crimes were most fre­quent, crimes com­mit­ted against gay men and les­bians sec­ond, and religion-based crimes were third most fre­quent, with anti-Jewish crimes a dis­turb­ing 61% of all reported religion-based crimes.

Fed­eral and state hate crime laws are an impor­tant demon­stra­tion that our soci­ety rec­og­nizes the unique impact of hate vio­lence.  45 states and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia now have enacted hate crime laws, many based on the ADL Model Law drafted in 1981.  The only five states with­out a penalty-enhancing hate crime law are Arkansas, Indi­ana, Geor­gia, Wyoming – and South Carolina.

Attor­ney Gen­eral Lynch has announced that the Depart­ment of Jus­tice has opened its own hate crime inves­ti­ga­tion of this ter­ri­ble crime – under fed­eral crim­i­nal civil rights laws, includ­ing the Matthew Shep­ard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Pre­ven­tion Act.  That essen­tial fed­eral statute is an impor­tant bul­wark, but it is not a sub­sti­tute for state hate crimes laws.   South Car­olina is in mourn­ing now, as we all are.  One of the most con­struc­tive ways for the state to move for­ward would be to join 45 other states who already have hate crimes laws.

We need to be real­is­tic.  We can­not leg­is­late, reg­u­late, or tab­u­late an end to racism, anti-Semitism, or big­otry.  Com­ple­ment­ing fed­eral and state hate crime laws and pre­ven­tion ini­tia­tives, gov­ern­ments must pro­mote early learn­ing and con­tin­u­ing edu­ca­tion against bias and dis­crim­i­na­tion in schools and the com­mu­nity.   Strong, inclu­sive laws, and effec­tive responses to hate vio­lence by pub­lic offi­cials and law enforce­ment author­i­ties, how­ever, are essen­tial com­po­nents in deter­ring and pre­vent­ing these crimes.  

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April 9, 2015 38

North Charleston Shooting Provokes Virulently Racist Reactions

This arti­cle includes explicit and offen­sive mate­r­ial. It high­lights part of ADL’s ongo­ing efforts to track and expose the ugly reac­tions and responses of white suprema­cists and extrem­ists to the high-profile police shoot­ing inci­dents across the United States in 2014–15.

north-charleston-posting

Com­ment from Stormfront

Michael Slager, a North Charleston, South Car­olina, police offi­cer, has been charged with mur­der after a wit­ness turned in cell­phone video of the April 4 shoot­ing death of Wal­ter Scott. The video showed Slager, a white offi­cer, shoot­ing Scott, an African-American, mul­ti­ple times in the back as Scott appar­ently fled from a traf­fic stop situation.

The graphic footage evoked strong pub­lic reac­tions at a time when police shoot­ings of unarmed African-Americans have been brought into the national spot­light. Police Chief Eddie Drig­gers spoke for many view­ers when he said, “I was sick­ened by what I saw.”

Not every­body had that reaction.

Among racists and white suprema­cists, the video pro­voked an entirely dif­fer­ent set of con­ver­sa­tions, dom­i­nated by vir­u­lently racist responses. “This cop should be applauded for tak­ing a future rapist, thief, drug dealer, nig­ger off the street,” posted American_Fascist to the dis­cus­sion site red­dit. “I like this cop’s style,” wrote Pungspark on the white suprema­cist Daily Stormer site. “Too bad [he] didn’t make sure there were no witnesses.”

Some white suprema­cists agreed, even if reluc­tantly, that the offi­cer might have com­mit­ted mur­der. “It appears that the pig did unjustly kill the jig,” allowed Joe from OH on the white suprema­cist Van­guard News Net­work (VNN) forum.

Oth­ers defended the officer’s actions, claim­ing that Scott had taken Slager’s Taser. “If a perp gets your taser, you can shoot the nig­ger,” wrote an anony­mous poster to the dis­cus­sion site Zero Cen­sor­ship. Some claimed any­body who ran away from police was guilty. “Again we have a black guy run­ning from the police which in my opin­ion is the action of guilt,” stated Scorpion4444 on the white suprema­cist forum Storm­front. On the same site, Ten­niel wrote, “It used to be that if a sus­pect ran from the cop, he was con­firm­ing his guilt…If white men still had power, that’s the way it would be.”

How­ever, many posts openly applauded the shoot­ing. “Per­son­ally, I don’t care how unjus­ti­fied the ‘mur­der’ was,” wrote Hellen on VNN. “It’s a jig, it would have gone to rape and kill numer­ous peo­ple, that’s what they do. That offi­cer pre­vented many future crimes.”

310tournad posted to Storm­front that “after bear­ing wit­ness to the never end­ing stream…of blacks rap­ing, rob­bing, mur­der­ing, riot­ing, and prey­ing on…innocent whites, I couldn’t care less about this negro.” Poster dkr77 wrote on the same site, “I say good rid­dance. Just think of the money that cop saved the tax payer.” Honor Sword wrote, “One less negro run­ning the streets.”

Some responses actu­ally attacked the offi­cer. “Typ­i­cal left­ist union thug behav­ior” was how one anony­mous Zero Cen­sor­ship poster referred to Slager’s actions. Joe from OH had a sim­i­lar reac­tion, using an epi­thet white suprema­cists reserve for police offi­cers: “Another gut­less blue nig­ger. Mur­der­ous pub­lic union thug.” Angl0sax0nknight wrote on Storm­front that “I don’t care what took place before…the cow­ardly pig shoots him in the back. Remem­ber more whites are killed by cops [than] blacks…This pig should fry!”

Many posters antic­i­pated demon­stra­tions and protests in response to the shoot­ings, some attribut­ing them to Jew­ish con­trol of the media, as did beast9 on Storm­front: “And yet the hooked nose kikes always leave out the race of the blacks killing and rap­ing peo­ple. The media jews want a race war.”

Com­mon were responses that included the cur­rently pop­u­lar racist memes “chim­pout” and “dindu nuffins.” “Chim­pout” is a racist term to describe protests from the African-American com­mu­nity in response to recent police shoot­ings. “Whether or not they have a cat[egory] 3 chim­pout in North Charleston,” wrote poster MLK_gibsmedatdream to red­dit, “the media is going to be replay­ing this for many months.”

“Dindu nuffins” is a term that orig­i­nated in 2014 in response the shoot­ing of Michael Brown in Fer­gu­son, Mis­souri. It began as a hate-filled mock­ery of rel­a­tives of shoot­ing vic­tims who claimed that the vic­tims had done no wrong (as in “he didn’t do any­thing”), then evolved into a racial epi­thet for African-Americans, some­times short­ened fur­ther to “din­dus.” Storm­fron­ter WhiteWarrior79 lam­basted Chief Drig­gers, “who almost cried when talk­ing about the poor dindu nuf­fin negro,” while fel­low Storm­fron­ter SPYDERx13 asked, “When do the Din-do’s start riot­ing, ummm, protesting?”

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