Racism in America: Charleston shooting prompts discussion


JOEL WOODHALL | Courtesy Photo

BYU-Idaho students have spoken out about their thoughts on the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.

Vanessa Love, a black student and a junior studying communication, said she is not surprised the shooting was an act of racism.

“If cops are doing it, what will stop others from doing it?” Love said.

Jamal Taylor, a black student and a sophomore studying communication, said racism has become a larger problem in the United States in the past few years, with the increase in shootings, riots and other prejudice-related acts of violence.

“I think some of the worst things you could do about it is act like it doesn’t exist or just accept it as just another not-so-great part of life,” Taylor said.

The police have apprehended Dylann Roof, 21, and charged him with nine counts of murder, after his arrest near Shelby, North Carolina, Thursday morning.

Nine people were shot and killed when a gunman opened fire at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, Wednesday, June 17.

Roof, a white male, posted a profile picture on Facebook in May of himself wearing a jacket with the flags of South Africa during the apartheid-era and of white-ruled Rhodesia, modern-day Zimbabwe, which have both been adopted to be signs of modern-day white supremacists, according to The New York Times.

Racial discrimination has proven to be the motivation in the majority of hate crimes, according to a study done by the FBI.

In the study, racial discrimination topped the charts at 48.5 percent of 5,922 single-motivation hate crime incidents, with sexual orientation next at 20.8 percent, according to USA Today.

According to the study, 64.6 percent of racially-targeted hate crimes were aimed at African Americans.

Roof said students are subconsciously taught to view white people as a superior race above black people, according to a manifesto posted on his website,

“I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to whites in the country,” Roof said in the manifesto. “Someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.”

South Carolina is home to at least 19 known hate groups, including two factions of the Klu Klux Klan. However, the shooting has not been linked to any one hate group, according to NBC News.

Rachel Branham, a white resident of Charleston and a freshman majoring in general studies, said it was at the church building itself because of its historical significance to the black community in Charleston.

“It is a hate crime because you just don’t go and shoot nice people, regardless of their race or religious affiliation,” Branham.

Rachel Collins, a white resident of Columbia, South Carolina, and a freshman studying business management, said the shooting was an act of terrorism with racist motives.

“It is a predominantly black church and in the south,” Collins said. “He knew when he was going into it that it was a black church.”

Taylor said he believes everyone, on some level, is affected by racism.

“It’s whether or not we choose to acknowledge it and how we go about making a change that’s important,” Taylor said. “The more frequently prejudice-related violence happens, the more racial bias stirs.”

In a statement at the White House after the shooting occurred, President Barack Obama said shootings like the one in Charleston have happened too many times and the American people need to acknowledge the tragedy rather than ignore it.

“At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries,” President Obama said. “It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency.”

Thursday night, Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show, apologized for a lack of jokes and went into a monologue about the shooting in Charleston, according to The Washington Post.

“I honestly have nothing other than just sadness once again that we have to peer into the abyss of the depraved violence that we do to each other and the nexus of a just, gaping racial wound that will not heal, yet we pretend doesn’t exist,” Stewart said during the monologue.

Stewart called the shooting a terrorist attack on the American people, from the American people.

“This is a violent attack on the Emanuel Church in South Carolina, which is a symbol for the black community,” Stewart said. “It has stood in that part of Charleston for 100 and some years and has been attacked viciously many times, as many black churches have.”

President Obama said the fact that the shooting took place in a black church raises questions about a dark part of American history.

“This is not the first time that black churches have been attacked,” President Obama said. “And we know that hatred across races and faiths pose a particular threat to our democracy and our ideals.”

Love said blacks are still in the mindset of slavery.

“They think that it’s past, but their mind is still in bondage,” Love said.

Stewart said the shooting happened because a white man hated black men and wanted to start another civil war.

“The Confederate flag flies over South Carolina, and the roads are named for Confederate generals, and the white guy’s the one who feels like his country is being taken away from him,” Stewart said.

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