CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Many Americans treat the United States' history of racism, and the racist sentiments that persist in the country today, as background noise. But following Wednesday's massacre at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, that noise has gotten louder. And Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old who has been charged with murdering all nine of the victims, has become the face of this unchecked tension.
But one South Carolina lawmaker says racial hatred in the country goes beyond just Roof, and hopes to improve the situation in his state through hate crime legislation.
Rep. Wendell Gilliard (D), who represents the district where Emanuel is located, will address the South Carolina General Assembly on Tuesday to demand that his colleagues pass legislation imposing harsher penalties for crimes motivated by bias. Gilliard is a co-sponsor of the legislation, which was introduced by Rep. J. Seth Whipper (D) and is currently in committee.
"Hate groups and hateful individuals see the inaction and are emboldened to come into our communities and commit horrific acts," Gilliard told The Huffington Post. "Passing the law would be sending a message: We know you’re here; we’re prepared for you."