Church massacre raises hate crime questions

Race relations professor: Shooting should be wake-up call for everyone


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Lone wolf attacks where a gunman shoots multiple people in a rage of hatred like Wednesday's massacre in South Carolina happen every 34 days somewhere in the United States, according to a study by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The question remains, did Dylann Roof, the man accused of shooting and killing nine black community leaders at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, have any affiliation to a specific hate group?

It's a question authorities still haven't answered two days after the massacre in the historic black church. Nationally, racially motivated hate crimes have declined steadily from a high of 4,042 in 2004 to 2,871 in 2013.

But UNF race relations professor JeffriAnne Wilder said statements Roof made about blacks taking over the country make her question where that hate comes from.

"This idea of taking back our country has been reflected ever since Barack Obama was elected president," Wilder said. "And there are some folks that are not OK with an African American leading our country, and to be quite honest, I've seen this rhetoric 'Let's take back our country,' on people's bumper stickers."

Wilder said the shooting should be a wake-up call for people of all nationalities that race relations are just as strained as they were in the 1950s and 60s. She said news that Roof hoped to start a "race war" with the church shooting should be even more concerning.

"It's important that even though it seems right now he's acted alone that we're not just dismissing what he's saying as some sort of lone-wolf type of incident, just acting alone, isolated," Wilder said.

According to Southern Poverty Law Center's hate map, 50 hate groups have been identified in Florida. Four of which the law center says are in the Jacksonville area, including the Confederate Hammerheads, the Skinheads and the New Black Panther Party.

In South Carolina, there are 19 identified hate organizations, including the Aryan Nation and the League of the South.

"Even though we know that hate crimes in general might be decreasing, this sort of pervasive ideology attached to supremacist groups and anti-ideologies has only grown stronger in the face of this new decade," Wilder said. 

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