Church leaders reflect on hate crimes in Mississippi after Buffalo mass shooting
GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) – The horrific homegrown terrorism in Buffalo, New York has shocked many across the country.
Last week, 18-year-old Payton Gendron led an alleged racist shooting that killed 10 black people in a supermarket.
Morning Star Baptist Church pastor John Whitfield said race is the underlying issue in today’s social, economic and educational conflicts.
“The big divide is real, but if you look under each one, more often than not it’s that race is the priority that displaces negativity in this country,” Whitfield said.
Hate crimes afflict the community and the individual, leaving a negative experience that sticks to the soul.
Pastor Whitfield said he could write a book about the hate crimes he suffered and witnessed on the coast.
“A good friend of mine was beaten to death in a Jackson County jail because he refused to answer the call, ‘boy.’ There are many examples that I have personally experienced that show that hate is something that has existed, it continues to exist, and unless we take action now to eradicate it, it will continue into the future. “said Whitfield.
Whitfield said some people who deny calling Gendron’s actions a hate crime help keep America stuck in its ways.
“To refuse to speak out against the violence that has taken place, by whatever means, then you are perpetuating that, you are sponsoring it and you are encouraging it,” Whitfield said.
The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report identified 64 hate crimes reported in 2020 by Mississippi law enforcement.
According to the report, 14 hate crimes were reported in 2019.
Last September, the FBI’s field office in Jackson launched a hate crimes awareness campaign urging people to report crimes to law enforcement and pledging to hold people accountable.
“If you start dissuading people who are filled with that kind of vitriol towards another race of people, you might have the opportunity to dissuade those kinds of actions,” Whitfield said.
Whitfield said the internet is weaponizing the minds of young people and he wants everyone in the community to speak up before it’s too late.
“If parents aren’t actively involved in viewing and supervising what our young people watch, we will lose an entire generation,” Whitfield said.
The Morning Star Baptist Church will host talks on gun violence in the coming months.
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