Racism Review: Understanding the Charleston shooting from a sociological perspective

The shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, on Wednesday has shaken the country, leaving many reflecting on the state of race relations in the United States.

Nine people, including Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the church’s pastor and a South Carolina state senator, were shot to death by accused gunman Dylann Storm Roof at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Authorities have called the shooting a hate crime.

But how does one explain such a crime from a scientific perspective? What could lead someone to commit a racially motivated hate crime? What is racism — and how can we as a society overcome it?

HuffPost Science posed those questions and others on Thursday to Dr. R. L’Heureux Lewis-McCoy, an associate professor of sociology at The City College of New York (CUNY) and author of the book Inequality in the Promised Land.

Dr. R. L'Heureux Lewis-McCoy

Dr. R. L’Heureux Lewis-McCoy

I would define racism as a system of social advantages and disadvantages doled out based upon group membership, particularly what we have socially defined as races. Among sociologists, we also talk about a newer form of racism known as “colorblind racism” (Eduardo Bonilla-Silva pioneered this work) that emerged after the 1960s, where the outward expression of racial animus and explicit discriminatory laws have been silenced or removed, but unfair racial advantages or disadvantages are still doled out, despite few people admitting to being devout racists.

From my framework, it is possible for someone to be working in service of racism by endorsing white supremacist ideologies. For example, Dylann Roof in South Carolina opened fire in Mother Emanuel Church and subscribed to beliefs about the superiority of whites and the “natural” order of things. Alternatively, someone who is black can also endorse negative beliefs about their racial siblings despite being a member of that group. A common example of this would be a police officer who is black but utilizes racial profiling in her or his everyday police work.

How would you then describe the ways in which our society is set up to perpetuate racism?


Timo Soini overjoyed by Danish election result and good showing of the Islamophobic DPP

Perussuomalaiset (PS)* Chairman and Foreign Minister Timo Soini wrote in his blog today that he was elated that the xenophobic Danish People’s Party emerged in the Danish elections as the second-biggest party after the Social Democrats.

Soini is happy about the DPP victory? Certainly he is because he likes their xenophobic and nativist nationalistic message because it’s the same message of the PS when the DPP was starting out in Denmark.

And he continues: “I sent to my good friend Morten Messerschmidt my warmest regards. Morten is coming again to our annual congress where he’s a liked guest.”

DPP MEP Messerschmidt was charged in 2007 for singing Nazi marching songs and giving the Hitler salute in a bar in Tivoli, the major tourist attraction in central Copenhagen.

He was cleared of such charges in 2009 by a court, which forced the daily BT to compensate Messerschmidt for libel. Together with two other DPP members in 2001, Messerschmidt was sentenced by a court for 14 days  for ethnic agitation. A DPP ad in Studiomagazinet claimed that Denmark would face  mass rapes, violence, insecurity, forced marriages, women would be oppressed, and  gang crime if the country became a multiethnic society.

Politiken is one of Denmark’s biggest dailies. A tweet below lists some of the xenophobic stands of the DPP below.  Is this the type of country Soini wants for Finland?

Näyttökuva 2015-6-19 kello 15.06.34


Institute of Race Relations: Building on communities of dissent

Written by IRR News Team

How do we build on communities of dissent, asks veteran Black activist A. Sivanandan in a short film released this week by Sage Publications alongside a collection of his key writings in Race & Class

A. Sivanandan, IRR Director Emeritus, is one of the UK’s key thinkers on racism, imperialism, black identity and political struggle. His grounded theory has proved important both in the academy and the community for over four decades.

Due to ill-health, Sivanandan could not be present at the IRR’s recent conference ‘Catching History on the Wing’. The short film – a passionate plea to build communities of dissent around the social injustices caused by neoliberalism – is based on his recorded postscript to that conference.



Danish elections: Right-wing anti-immigration populism chalks up another victory in the Nordic region

The Danish elections are the latest example of what happens to mainstream parties when they parrot populist and xenophobic rhetoric. In the sad case of Denmark, all of the parties attempted to match the Danish People’s Party (DPP) anti-immigration message.

Perussuomalaiset (PS)* chairman and foreign minister, Timo Soini, was elated by the Danish election result. He wrote in his blog that the PS are no longer alone in the Nordic region and Europe thanks to the good showing of the DPP.

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Read full story here.

Not everyone was happy about the result, especially Muslims and anti-racism activists like Bashy Quraishy, who wrote on Facebook: “A truly dark day in modern Danish history that will throw out the humanism and inclusiveness out of the window and replace it with fear, shear greed and restrictions.”

Is Finland on the path of becoming an isolationist, nationalistic and xenophobic country?

Finland hasn’t been itself for a number of years, especially after a populist Euro-skeptic and anti-immigration party, the Perussuomalaiset (PS)*, rose to the political major leagues in the 2011 elections

Sadly Finland appears today lost politically. it is like a blind person using as its seeing-eye dog nationalism and xenophobia. It has become a country that has not only lost its self-confidence but in some cases fears its own shadow.

That shadow that it fears is in the form of the worst populism, nationalism and xenophobia. Challenging those three social ills is difficult for some Finns because what they are seeing is themselves in the mirror.

I am especially saddened by the present state of Finland. I am disappointed because I know this country has overcome great adversity and can do better. Blaming others and scapegoating is the way cowards do things.

Finland isn’t a country of the masses but of individuals who can make all the difference.



The roots of Finnish xenophobia can be found in the media. This billboard from tabloid Ilta-Sanomat states that the Somalis aren’t leaving but staying in Finland. Source: Migration Institute.


Close your eyes and repeat (again): The PS of Finland isn’t a neo-Nazi party…

Perussuomalaiset (PS)* MP Olli Immonen, who is chairman of the white Finnish supremacist Suomen Sisu, was joined by members of a neo-Nazi group at the grave of Eugen Schauman, who took his life on June 16, 1904 after assassinating Russian Governor General Nikolai Bobrikov, reports YLE in English.

Members of the neo-Nazi Kansallinen Vastarinta, who were present with Immonen, form part of a violent association that was involved in attacking a book presentation in Jyväskylä 2013 where one person was stabbed.

PS city councilman for Espoo, Teemu Lahtinen, who used to be a member of IKL, a fascist party founded originally in the early 1930s and was former chairman of Suomen Sisu, was present at the event as well.

Näyttökuva 2015-6-17 kello 21.34.09YLE in English calls Kansallinen Vastarina a “national socialist” associaiton. In plain English that should mean neo-Nazi.


Does it pay to be a racist in Finland? You bet your sweet behind it does!

Some may ask why Islamophobia and racism have raised their ugly heads in Finland. Let’s take Persussuomalaiset MP and the recently elected speaker of parliament, Maria Lohela, as an example. By writing Islamophobic and racist opinion pieces that label and victimize migrants and minorities, Lohela not only ended up getting elected twice to parliament but now as the new speaker of parliament has at her disposal a 140,000-euro Audi with driver included.

Somebody who knew Lohela told Migrant Tales that she appears to be a sensible person until you slip the term Muslim or Islam in the conversation. She then turns into a Ms Hyde.

Lohela got her anti-immigration and Islamophobic credentials through places like the Nuiva Manifesto, which relies heavily on one-way adaption, or assimilation. She was opposed to same-sex marriage as well.

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Read full story here.

Just like many politicians who base their support on anti-immigration rhetoric and Islamophobia, Lohela is too much of a coward to stand by her writings. She will, however, give you wishy-washy statements why she doesn’t regret what she wrote.


Finland’s Foreign Minister Timo Soini is against European Commission plans to spread refugees among EU states

In a ploki, a nationalistic Finnish translation of blog, Perussuomalaiset (PS)* Foreign Minister Timo Soini writes that he’s against European Commission (EC) plans to spread refugees throughout the community. 

“Every country is responsible for the asylum seekers [that come to their country],” he wrote. “Such policy must be made by the host country. The Commission should have no jurisdiction over [a country’s] immigration policy.”

Soini, who normally gives the image of a “good cop” against the “bad cops” of his party, or those PS members who have been sentenced for ethnic agitation and/or make racist statements to the media, believes that accepting a few refugees from war-torn regions wouldn’t help relieve matters for such refugees.