Nine people, including a pastor, have been killed after a white man opened fire during a prayer meeting inside the Emmanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston, North Carolina. Authorities are describing this as a hate crime. The shooter remained at large on Thursday morning while police attempt to hunt him down.
Residents of North Carolina are appalled at the crime that killed the church’s pastor, Sen. Clementa Pinckney, a married father of two who was the youngest member of the state House at the time of his election. Residents are also shocked that the target of the attack was the Emmanuel AME Church, a true piece of African-American history that traces its roots as far back as 1816, with its founders being leaders in slave revolts until after the Civil War.
This attack comes on the heels of the fatal shooting of Walter Scott, who was unarmed when he was killed by a white police officer in North Charleston which enflamed protests and highlighted racial tensions in North Carolina.
Social media has ignited with talk of racial inequality as the murderer in this crime is referred to as a gunman, compared to others who would commit crimes and may risk being referred to as “gang related” or terrorists based on their “race.”
However, let us clear this up. Although I understand the outrage over this perceived inequality, it is important to remember that terrorism and hate crimes are similar, but different. Yes, there are people who have committed crimes that have been labelled as “gang related” or as terrorist attacks by the media simply because of the race of the perpetrator, but in this instance, this crime was a hate crime.
A hate crime is described as being criminal acts that are generally committed against a person and/or property due to their race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or anything similar to this. Meanwhile, terrorism is the use of the violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.
Yes, both hate crimes and terrorism are used to cause terror and to make people feel unsafe. However, what I believe makes this a hate crime, is the fact that there does not appear to be any goals. The victims are victims because the man who shot them is suspected of doing so out of hate. As reports have suggested, he appears to have no goals beyond hate.
The fact that social media is largely making this a race issue about how criminal are depicted in the media is quite bothersome to me. It irks me that it is that issue, rather than the deaths of nine innocent people who were in a safe haven, that people are focusing on. Meanwhile, the suspect is reportedly still on the loose and is reported to be “armed and dangerous.”