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ABC-7 Xtra: Charleston Shooting

>>> live where news comes first, this is “abc-7 xtra. >>> good evening. i’m maria garcia. tonight, we’re talking about the conversations that that terribly tragic shooting in charleston has forced our country to deal with and how to move forward. police say this week 21-year-old dylann roof shot and killed nine church members as they gathered for prayer service and bible study. throughout the week, we’ve learned more details about those killed, some of their families showing awe-inspiring forgiveness toward the alleged killer. law enforcement sources say roof has confessed and said he wanted to start a race war. pictures of him with a confederate flag and weapons have emerged, and investigators are looking into a racist manifesto, possibly written by roof. joing us tonight, bishop richard johnson with destiny family christian center. and dr. richard pineda, director of the sam donaldson center for communication and associate professor at utep. you can e-mail us your comments and questions now to you can also reach us at 915-496-1775. or tweet me at @mariagabc7. before we get to our discussion though, let’s take a look at the emotional return to that church in charleston. four days ago, the scene of a massacre, mother emanuel’s doors opening for sunday service for the first time since that tragedy. >> a lot of folk expected us to do something strange and to break out in a riot. >> with the heat so thick, they ran out of fans. white families joined black ones, filling the wooden pews of this historic african-american church. >> it’s a message that hate will not win and it will be love that has the victory. >> i was drawn here to worship in solidarity with my brothers and sisters who are suffering. >> there’s no color barrier. you feel the sorrow but you also feel the unity. >> hundreds more had to listen outside, rebuking the alleged murder and racist, accused of ending nine lives in their bible study room downstairs. families of survivors and those who died are sharing more details about the murders at emanuel ame, saying that when he was done, 21-year-old dylan roof tried to kill himself, but failed. >> he actually put the gun to his head from what i was told and pulled the trigger, but there was no bullets left. >> reverend waltrina middleton say she had to see the seat, and take this photo, where her cousin lost her life. in an emotional interview, she and the family of ethel lance told us not to get it confused. not everyone’s quite ready to forgive. >> i know forgiveness is a process, and i know with god’s help that i will get there. but i’m not there yet. >> while police continue to look at what may be roof’s manifesto posted on the internet, and the pictures of him at confederate monument, there’s this moment of light online, a drawing from a 7-year-old girl outside charleston. “being colorblind is awesome you should give it a try.” >> joining us now: bishop richard johnson with destiny family christian center and dr. richard pineda, director of the sam donaldson center for communication and associate professor at utep. thank you so much for joining us tonight. we appreciate it. there’s a lot to talk about. i want to first talk about the victims, though, and the unity we saw there in that opening piece. the family of one of the victims telling roof they forgive him. another family saying they’re not quite there yet. what are your thoughts on this? we’ll start with you, bishop. >> well, as a pastor, we’re taught forgiveness. but understanding what forgiveness is, it doesn’t mean what you did was all right and would be allowed again. it’s i’m giving up my right to vengeance trying to get back at you and so it’s a practice. it’s not — it’s easier said than done but we are taught to forgive and it releases you really of some of the pressure, the hate, the anger, but it’s not saying it was all right. it’s just saying i’m not going to exercise a right to get back to you or back at you. >> uh-huh and like you said it’s a practice, and i think it’s also arguably a process. >> it is a process. >> a process of forgiveness. dr. pineda, when we hear media reports of the victims’ families saying we forgive them, what does that do for the conversation when you hear that? >> it’s a remarkable thing. if you watched the sentencing hearing after roof had been arrested and before he was sent back to charleston, one of the things that was remarkable is that the victims’ families were able to address him via closed-circuit television. the fact that they could in that moment embrace this notion of forgiveness is remarkable. i don’t know that that has changed the national discussion. i don’t think that it should. in some ways i think there’s a number of issues that are still in play and one of them i think largely is the question of not having a vocabulary to talk about race, so i think that while there is certainly heavy hearts today in charleston, i think that we’re really only the tip of the iceberg for this conversation and i’m not entirely sure that we’re that much better off to progress in that conversation. >> absolutely, and i think when it comes to race, our country tends to be always at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to that and i want to talk about that. there’s been a lot of talk about mental illness, racism, how the media has reported the story. let’s talk about mental illness first. clearly, roof’s actions are not those of a well-justiced — well-adjusted person but you hear people saying racism is not a mental illness. and i think that goes to your pound. >> i think the tricky point is that this question of racism, the bigger issue that’s here, it’s really easy to simplify it down to make this an issue solely about mental healthcare and make this an issue about gun control. all those are important conversations but i think what this points to, this particular incident i think is one of unfortunately quite a few that indicate that not only is there still racial tension in this country but when it comes to how these things are acted out, the impact is devastating. there are people today who don’t get to celebrate father’s day with their parents because fathers were killed in charleston. i think the conversation needs to have some points where the discussion begins but i think that that means that people as a whole in the country have to acknowledge that this is a problem, and i think that we don’t, and i think that’s a big part of the issue. >> and speaking of acknowledging it, roof told the victims he had to do it because they were quote taking over. he wore pro-apartheid stickers, he wanted to start a race war. race is clearly a factor here. and also, there’s been this discussion that there’s this refusal by some in the public, some in the media, to attribute this to race or to talk about race. would we be talking about this differently if he were not white, what do you think about that? >> i think race certainly is in the forefront of the conversation. but i also think mental illness has no color line, and so had he been a black young man or being a white young man, it’s obvious he’s mentally disturbed and a dysfunctional individual. and so we don’t know the history, his history but i do know dysfunction starts at a very young age and i would think some of the thoughts and his pattern of thinking started well before 21 years old. he’s been somehow instructed at a young age to have this hatred and this desire to see blacks killed and what have you. so it’s definitely a mental situation and i do think because of whatever upbringing he’s had, race definitely was an issue here. >> yeah, clearly. you know, dr. pineda, we’ve talked about this, about how your experience in the media is catered to your ideological point of view. if you’re conservative and you get online, all the articles that tend to pop up are conservative oriented articles. you watch probably conservative oriented network news. vice versa if you’re a liberal, too, so there’s been a lot of discussion about are we really having meaningful conversations about race, even about mental illness or are people just kind of spewing off the latest they heard in their network news of choice, which caters to their point of view already or just repeating you know, the meme on facebook that popped up on their timeline that already caters and panders to their point of view? >> i think there’s two things. the first is there definitely is a very segmented way in which people consume media so if you only want to seek certain kinds of messages the way the digital media works in particular has set that up. the other issue, and i think this is one that again needs to be part of a bigger conversation is that i think what you’re seeing is a radicalization of race conversations, especially on the internet, and so i think what you’re seeing is spaces that are developing where hate groups are able to use the digital interface in a way that hadn’t been possible before so you not only have sort of a wide breadth of messages but you also have an intellectualization of hate. websites are developing a particular niche approach to racism, and they open up the conversation in the direction they want. i think that’s really a problematic issue, and i think it’s very, very hard in the same way it is to confirm or disconfirm conversation on the internet, it’s so much easier to hide this kind of vitriol online now more than ever before. >> speaking of cultivating racism, bill maher who is left wing to say the least blaming the right wing media, saying media and how they present the world is to blame for really instigating some of these unstable individuals. would you agree with that, bishop? >> i’m sure there’s some truth to it. i think it’s more to it that these young men and women are being driven to such action. of course, the media does emphasize that news and some of it has been we’ve talked about police departments and what have you and young black men being shot without being armed and what have you and all this incites certain emotions. i think the media does play some part in it but i think there’s more behind their actions than just the news. >> let’s go to jen in central on the phone. what’s your comment or your question? >> yes, my question is for bishop johnson. i want to know what his point of view is as far as people using it as a race issue. do you really believe that this has anything to do with race or is it just america’s way of trying to dumb down the situation? >> okay. so jen is asking are people using this as a race issue or is america dumbing down the situation? what do you think? >> the fact that this individual went to an ame church and i’m told that he went there more than once in his last days, sat in the congregation for an hour before going forth to kill, it’s obvious that he went there to kill black people. and that alone makes it a race issue. it’s also obvious that the young man was demented, the gear he wore, someone had put a lot of hate in his heart and in his mind, and i think that was the reason for his desire to kill as he stated black people. >> right, right and obviously, there’s a lot of things that this has — a lot of topics that this has made surface: guns, violence, race, obviously. but, as you said, the radicalization of hate, i want to talk about that. millennials, young people, a generation that have grown up really exposed to the mass shootings, exposed to hate. arguably you can say it started with columbine and ever year since, everyone on the news hears about mass shootings several times a year. and people scream for peace but really i think a lot of times don’t do enough in their community to ensure it. so how do we do that? how do we ensure peace? how do we learn from this? >> well, i think that when we’re talking about this question of people’s perceptions and attitudes, going back to the media perspective, so you have bill maher that takes a particular position. jon stewart was devastatingly good but what struck me watching those two programs and watching sort of the language that they used is those speak to audiences that are already pre-selected in terms of their belief set. so the audience for jon stewart, is more to the left than they are conservative. so the question is then where’s this middle ground and where’s this conversation that needs to happen that is nonpartisan? a conversation that people are engaged in, this isn’t an isolated incident and this isn’t something that has just popped up in the last several years. we’re talking literally of a history of racism in parts of the south that have not been addressed, and i think that, you know, it’s easy to sort of isolate these different points. i think the question is can we have a conversation about how to talk about race? and i think that’s the first part and that’s the part that isn’t being framed. >> how do you as a community, because it seems like every time something like this happens, you hear people saying we have to talk about race, we have to admit that it’s a problem, we have to cross party lines, cross social lines. but on a practical level, how do you do that as a community? >> i think the first responsibility is for individuals themselves to stand up and have these conversations. it can’t be a top down approach. this has to happen with people having conversations with their neighbors, disconnecting to have a conversation about what goes on in their social spaces, having conversations about what goes on in their communities. if those things don’t happen amongst individuals, talking to their children about these issues, making these issues that are important especially when it comes to educating these children, then there’s not going to be a conversation that happens at the level of the president, the level of congress that’s going to shift anybody’s perceptions about race. these are conversations where the same people that are consuming media, especially when it comes to digital media or some of these other forms, if they’re not connecting with the people around them which i think is largely the case, then you’re not going to be able to have this kind of conversation. so it starts at that level. it starts at a micro level with people having those conversations and only then can they talk to politicians and social leaders. i think otherwise, what you’re going to have is a lot of people who are taking advantage of this for political or social reasons that are not necessarily reaching down to the people to have that kind of impact. >> we have to take a break. when we come back, a look at that pollerizing symbol, the confederate flag. e-mail us at or you’re watching “abc-7 xtra.” >>> welcome back. the debate over the confederate flag still flying high on the grounds of south carolina’s state capitol landed right on mother emanuel’s doorstep. today, a sign outside the church, calling on the governor to take the flag down. here’s abc’s devin dwyer on this polarizing symbol. >> tonight, it’s still flying high at the state capitol as calls to take it down grow louder. >> take it down! take it down! >> the symbol of the confederacy celebrated by accused racist killer dylann roof. >> that flag gave his shooter and others like him, a banner under which to justify their actions. >> you can’t separate the heritage from the hatred that’s associated with it. >> a debate expanding beyond south carolina’s borders to the 2016 campaign trail. republican contender jeb bush saying he moved florida’s confederate flag to a museum. even mitt romney weighing in, tweeting, remove it now, to honor charleston’s victims. president obama replying, “goo point, mitt!” the only 2016 candidate from south carolina, lindsey graham not taking a stance. >> i welcome any debate and any discussion that will help my state and my nation. >> rick santorum weighed in on abc’s “this week. >> this is a decision that needs to be made here in south carolina. >> a state where pressure from outsiders is unwelcome. >> whether or not people have used it as a positive symbol or a negative symbol, it’s still part of our history. >> a symbol of southern pride long backed by a majority of south carolina voters. many now wondering if tragedy will change minds. devin dwyer, abc news, washington. >> all right. we want to talk about that. does the confederate flag belong in public places? can you separate its historic value from its racist heritage? what do you think? >> well, i think it does symbolize a team and era that people of my race would like to put behind them. for those that feel like it’s a historic thing, that the flag should be flown, i just say it incites certain emotions and especially in the carolinas where it’s flown. i cannot say it being taken down is going to solve problems but i do believe that it does symbolize a very trying and hurtful time in the lives of black america. >> we do have some comments from our viewers. sergio saying it belongs in a museum not inside a city hall. george david saying why do we on the border still have onata stuff still around? this is a conversation about the past historic symbols that have a lot of baggage to them. >> sure. well, i think the other question is whenever you talk about symbols that have not just a complicated past but are representative and can be easily connected to some very strong trends of racism, not only in the south and other parts of the united states. i think that symbolism is something that needs to be addressed head on. when you see potential presidential questions try to side step this issue, you wonder what they’re trying to avoid talking about. if we’re supposed to have a conversation about race, the conversation can’t be this side step that says well the people in south carolina should make that decision. that’s the beginning of the conversation. >> that’s what we heard rick santorum saying. >> i think if you don’t have a conversation about those things and again, i think that the impact of the symbol goes far beyond just the notion of state pride or pride in the history of the south. i think that the layers of that conversation are another good place to start because as you start to decode and get into the nature of the symbol, i think that conversation is again one of those places where, you know, to give you that sort of language, it’s an onramp to a conversation that i think is important. >> and karen tweeting, the flag became popular when the kkk endorsed it as their own. it was never officially the flag of the confederacy. she’s tweeting us the admitted killer made it about race by premeditating a plot to kill black people, including a manifesto and a website. and from rebecca, racism has been on everyone’s mind this week with the shootings but nobody has mentioned donald trump’s racist remarks. let’s go to lydia on the west side on the phone. what’s your comment or question? >> let us compliment the leadership at charleston for starting this conversation. the mayor, the senators at the federal level, there have been no riots. that’s the beginning of this conversation now, that they’re dealing with it in the appropriate manner and so this is the beginning of the conversation. my compliments to the government at all the levels that have done such a great job. thank you. >> thank you very much, lydia. do you agree with lydia’s comment. >> i think they’ve handled it quite well. the opposite result i think has happened. i think there was a horrible incident. i think it has drawn people together in that area, both black and white, and other races, and so i believe the way the mayor and the governor spoke out has kind of united more than — the words they spoke were words of unity more than hate and anger. so i thought they handled it quite well. >> the judge during roof’s hearing asked for sympathy for roof’s family. this really upset some people because they believe that his family is partially responsible for what he did and for his behavior. what do you think about that? >> i have a kind of particular point about the family. and certainly, you know, they were not guilty of the act itself, but as i stated earlier, i think dysfunction starts very early in the early age of a child. i think we as parents, this being father’s day, have some responsibility when we see a young person acting odd, doing things that seem to be destructive, i know it’s hard for a parent to say my child is odd or different, but i think we have some responsibility to somehow approach the child when the child is in their room doing things, building bombs or whatever, something similar or has paraphernalia of hate and nazi language. i think parents have some responsibility to look into that and see where it’s leading before it erupts into this kind of act. >> okay. we’re going to have to take a break. when we come back, we’re going to take more phone calls. stay with us you’re watching “abc-7 we’ll be right back. >>> welcome back to “abc- xtra.” let’s go to enrique on the phone. what’s your comment or question? >> why in the city of el paso in the state of texas, they talked about the use of guns when our own governor encourages the use for more guns? thank you. >> thank you very much. obviously, texas very pro gun state. you know, the legislature spent a lot of time talking about guns this session, open carry on campuses when there’s arguably a lot of other pressing issues. what are your thoughts on the question? >> i think he’s right. i think this has become a politically palatable question for conservative politicians. i think that they get a lot of milage out of talking about the need for more guns, and i think that that’s problematic for a number of different reasons. again, i think that one of the difficulties, though, is when it comes to this conversation about guns, i think that that’s the sort of knee-jerk reaction, we need to talk about that, and then it becomes a political question that takes away from this core conversation. so i think one of the problems is that we’re not going to resolve the question of access to firearms. that’s not going to happen probably for decades. but again, i think that the conversation needs to be moved back to what prompts people to use them and when there is access that’s either illegal or that there’s trading and sale of weapons that are underreported or under less government control, that’s the issue. it’s problematic to make that the core issue because it lets people off the hook to have these other conversations we’ve talked about. >> right. like you said, this issue is not going to be solved, this issue about access to guns is not going to really be addressed seemingly for decades. there’s just not the political willpower. obviously, there hasn’t been the political willpower in the last 20 years to do this. so there has to be another conversation about it. what are your thoughts on that? >> the word control is not a bad word. and though i don’t have anywhere near the answer for the control, i do think control is necessary in some form. everyone shouldn’t be allowed to have certain types of guns. automatic weapons and what have you. that needs to be questioned. background checks and so the conversation is going to go on and on. >> and it seems that you cannot have a conversation about guns in this country without it being heavily politicized. you just can’t. it’s just almost synonymous and so it’s almost futile. >> it begs the question again about special interest politics. the reason this conversation is hard to have is because you’ve got pretty active lobbying to prevent some of these kinds of limitations but again, i think the conversation about firearms i think moves us away from what i think are a bigger set of questions and the more this happens, and i think that this will be some of the conversation you see as a reaction to this. you’re going to see politicians and talking heads in the media isolate these points because it gets away from having what is an incredibly uncomfortable conversation about race and, you know, the media buzz word for the last several years for the obama administration has been we’re in a post-racial america but an incident like this is nothing if a clarion call that we are far from a post-racial society. >> thank you so much for joining us. we’re out of time. thank you so much, bishop. thank you for coming. thank you dr. pineda and thank you for joining us here on “abc-7

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