I recently had the honor of being featured in Huffington Post’s Science in their exploration of “the science of racism.” While sociology is a social science, I certainly think our theories and accumulated knowledge can help shine light on the contemporary nature of race and racism. Check out my responses in full at this link. Here’s an excerpt.
Is Southern culture perpetuating unequal practices or such thinking? For instance, the accused shooter, Dylann Storm Roof, in Charleston had Confederate license plates on his car, and the Confederate flag is sometimes used as a symbol of post-Civil War white supremacy.
Southern culture in particular and American culture in general often casually perpetuate racism in the present, often by recrafting narratives of the past. The Confederate flag, which flies over South Carolina, was not a long-lived historical symbol — it was the symbol of a rebel force against the United States. The “heritage not hate” trope conveniently skips over the central issues of the Civil War, the position of black people who labored in the antebellum South, as well as the costs that the war had on the nation. Symbols like the Confederate flag are common among hate groups, but also are part of the state’s image. The history of those symbols, along with the large number of schools and statues named for Confederate soldiers and even [Ku Klux] Klan members, create a hostile environment for those who understand the history of race in the nation, and those whose ancestors were painfully forced to labor under those flags during and after the end of slavery, and who had their lives terrorized by groups like the KKK.
Dylann Storm Roof is seen in his booking photo after he was apprehended as the main suspect in the mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church that killed nine people on June 18, 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina.
Were you surprised by Roof’s age of 21? Why do you think a young white man from a young generation could be motivated to commit a racially motivated hate crime?
I was not surprised by Roof’s age. Outspokenness of white supremacists may be on the decline, but white supremacist ideology exists in a range of ages. Hate groups often have events where children are socialized into racial hate. As well, the Internet has democratized access to white supremacist information. If I am a white high-schooler who feels he has been mistreated while racial minorities have been favored, I’m only a couple of clicks away from a myriad of sites and message boards where I’ll find kinship with folks who are in legion of racial hatred or racial nationalism.
Read it all here.