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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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January 14, 2015 1

Beyond the Dream, Teaching King in Context

Mar­tin Luther King, Jr. Day is Mon­day, Jan­u­ary 19, and many edu­ca­tors will take the oppor­tu­nity to teach about King and his enor­mous con­tri­bu­tions to our soci­ety. As edu­ca­tors, how we approach the teach­ing of this hol­i­day makes an impact on how stu­dents under­stand the larger con­text of the Civil Rights Move­ment and whether they make a con­nec­tion between the past strug­gles to the cur­rent day and their own lives. Here are some thoughts about teach­ing the topic in a mean­ing­ful way:

Courtesy of the Library of Congress, New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection, LC-USZ62-126559

Cour­tesy of the Library of Con­gress, New York World-Telegram & Sun Col­lec­tion, LC-USZ62-126559

Focus on what Mar­tin Luther King, Jr. rep­re­sents.  King is an icon, a larger than life fig­ure and a tremen­dous ora­tor. These char­ac­ter­is­tics can lead stu­dents to believe that he sin­gle­hand­edly accom­plished the goals of the Civil Rights Move­ment or that they could never be like King.  It’s impor­tant to put King’s work into the con­text of the larger move­ment of peo­ple that he rep­re­sented.  Stu­dents need to know about King’s life, that he was a leader of all types of “ordi­nary” peo­ple, and it was them – peo­ple of all ages, all walks of life, all dif­fer­ent races and reli­gions – that made the Civil Rights Move­ment possible.

It is impor­tant to under­stand and teach that the Civil Rights Move­ment was a strate­gic, on-going  move­ment with spe­cific objec­tives.  Author Bryan Steven­son talks about the idea that peo­ple today often think of the civil rights move­ment as a 3 day event; “Day One, Rosa Parks gave up her seat on a bus; Day Two, Dr. King led a march on Wash­ing­ton; and Day Three, we signed all these laws.”  This sim­plis­tic view of the Civil Rights Move­ment leaves out all of the impor­tant ele­ments of strat­egy, strug­gle and the actual “move­ment” of the Civil Rights Movement.

Sim­i­larly, it is impor­tant to be spe­cific when talk­ing about King and the Civil Rights Move­ment. Dr. King’s legacy can­not be under­stood with­out talk­ing about big­otry, race and racism.  That may seem obvi­ous, but often edu­ca­tors are hes­i­tant to talk about race.  With thought­ful prepa­ra­tion, how­ever, these issues can be raised in a devel­op­men­tally appro­pri­ate way.  It’s also really use­ful to be spe­cific about the aims of the Civil Rights Move­ment– not just a vague notion of “equal­ity” but a social jus­tice move­ment that was seek­ing to end seg­re­ga­tion, secure vot­ing rights, advo­cate for worker’s rights, and address eco­nomic disparities.

In this way, we have teach­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties that con­nect the past to cur­rent events.  Stu­dents can see both the suc­cess of the Civil Rights Move­ment while also con­nect­ing to what forms of sys­temic dis­crim­i­na­tion and unequal treat­ment exist today.  For exam­ple, exam­in­ing the Vot­ing Rights Act allows for an oppor­tu­nity to ana­lyze the 2013 Supreme Court deci­sion which gut­ted the heart of that law or explore tac­tics like Voter ID laws which sup­press the abil­ity to vote.  Sim­i­larly, focus­ing on the impor­tance of youth involve­ment and lead­er­ship in all aspects of the Civil Rights Move­ment allows for an oppor­tu­nity to learn about cur­rent activism led by youth.  

We know that no edu­ca­tor has the lux­ury or time to focus on all aspects of King’s life and the work of the Civil Rights Move­ment. Choos­ing one spe­cific aspect of King’s life or the Civil Rights Move­ment can give stu­dents more oppor­tu­nity to under­stand and explore, whether focus­ing on Selma or The Children’s Cru­sade or the San­i­ta­tion Work­ers’ Strike in Memphis.

These are just a few exam­ples of the many dif­fer­ent entry points for learn­ing about Mar­tin Luther King, Jr. and the work of the Civil Rights Move­ment.  For many, the “go to” entry point is to focus on King’s most famous and most quoted “I Have a Dream” speech, specif­i­cally the end with its lyri­cal, mov­ing rep­e­ti­tion. Because this speech has vivid imagery and phrases that make it easy to teach, it can also be over­sim­pli­fied. We need to go beyond “the Dream” for stu­dents to truly make mean­ing of King’s legacy.  King’s dream was deeply rooted not just in “the Amer­i­can Dream,” but also in that time’s con­text of dis­crim­i­na­tion, racism and big­otry.  How­ever we choose to honor King’s legacy this year, stu­dents’ learn­ing should also be rooted in those con­cepts of injustice.

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