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Dylann Roof: Tip of the Racism Iceberg — It's the Millennials Who Are Joining Hate Groups and Committing Hate Crimes

By David A. Love
With the election of President Obama in 2008, Americans were lulled into a false sense that the country had entered a post-racial era where whites do not discriminate or hold racist attitudes and everyone is treated equally regardless of race. In this fictional America, Black people and other people of color face the same future as whites, and the younger generation of whites—who helped elect Obama—are incapable of racism. Racism is relegated to the older generation, and according to this line of reasoning, as they die racism will die as well.

Then along comes Dylann Roof, 21, a millennial infused with so much racial hatred that he walked into the oldest Black church in the South, a symbol of Black freedom and resistance to oppression, and gunned down nine people in a Bible study group. As society, particularly white America, deceives itself into believing that racism is dead or is dying with an older generation, new racists are born. Millennial racism stands as evidence of a problem that will not go away.

After all, young people, not the elderly, are joining white power groups and committing hate crimes against Black people. And the officers who are beating, choking and gunning down Black bodies in the streets, in the back of the police cruiser, in the paddy wagon or in the police precinct, are not old folks.

An MTV study from last year found that millennials believe in equality and are coming of age in a racially sensitive society. A large majority—72 percent—believed their generation believes in equality more than older people, and 58 percent said that racism will become less of an issue once their generation takes over. In addition, 62 percent (58 percent of people of color, and 64 percent of whites) pointed to the election of a Black president as proof that people of color have the same opportunities as whites. Moreover, while a substantial majority (81 percent) believes in celebrating our differences, most (73 percent) also think that never considering race would improve society, and 68 percent believe focusing on race prevents society from becoming colorblind.

According to a 2011 survey from the organization Race Forward, among the generation of Americans ages 18 to 30, racial attitudes are not post-racial. For example, while only 10 percent believe that race is not a factor in the criminal justice system, and a majority of people believed employment discrimination continues, there were differences in viewpoints based on race. For example, while a majority of millennials of color said there is racism in public education, only a minority of whites agreed.

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