Columbia Urban League President and CEO J. T. McLawhorn is warning South Carolinians not to dismiss or minimize the repugnant video of a local teen spewing racist invective and repeatedly shooting a pair of sneakers symbolizing a Black man.
“South Carolina’s long, shameful history of racialized mass violence against African Americans and the 39 incidents of South Carolina mass shootings in the past five years -- including the nine lives taken at Mother Emanuel -- means that we should take clear threats to murder African Americans seriously, McLawhorn said.
“We are in an environment where certain actors feel emboldened to move beyond hate-filled rhetoric to violence. The hate-filled rhetoric from darkest corners of the web to the highest office in the land, coupled with easy access to automatic guns, raises the risk of mass violence.”
McLawhorn also questioned why it took Cardinal Newman School more than three weeks to notify parents of the teen’s threat to “shoot up the school.”
“Schools must have a ‘zero tolerance’ policy for this type of hate speech. Schools also must mandate cultural competence training for the children who have been exposed to this vile invective,” McLawhorn said.
“These risks must be taken seriously at every level of law enforcement – local, state, and federal,” McLawhorn said. “They cannot be dismissed as youthful boasts, shock value, or exaggeration.”
McLawhorn noted that Dylann Roof, who carried out the racially-motivated massacre at Mother Emanuel, had made similar threats but was not taken seriously. More recently, the alleged gunman in El Paso posted online screeds that should have served as red flags that violent acts were imminent.
“These threats are dangerous in themselves, and also inspire copycats who will carry out acts of domestic terrorism, McLawhorn said.
The National Urban League, with which the Columbia Urban League is affiliated, is a member of Everytown for Gun Safety, which advocates for stronger, effective common-sense gun safety legislation.