Church leaders reflect on hate crimes in Mississippi following Buffalo mass shooting

Published: May. 22, 2022 at 6:31 PM CDT
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - The horrifying domestic terrorism in Buffalo, New York shocked many across the nation.

Last week, 18-year-old Payton Gendron conducted an alleged racist mass shooting that killed 10 black people at a supermarket.

Pastor of Morning Star Baptist Church John Whitfield said race is the underlying issue of social, economic, and educational conflicts today.

“The great divide is real, but if you look under each one, more often than not, is that race is the priority that moves negativity in this country,” Whitfield said.

Hate crimes plague the community and the individual, which leaves a negative experience that sticks to the soul.

Pastor Whitfield said he could write a book about the hate crimes he experienced and witnessed on the coast.

“A good friend of mine was beat to death in a Jackson County jail because he refused to respond to being called, ‘boy.’ There are many examples that I’ve experienced personally that shows that hate is something that’s been around, it continues to be around, and unless we take some steps now to eradicate it, it will continue into the future,” Whitfield said.

Whitfield said some folks who deny labeling Gendron’s actions as a hate crime helps America become stuck in its ways.

“Refusing to speak out against the violence that was taken place, regardless of the means on it, then you’re perpetuating that, you’re sponsoring it and you’re encouraging it,” Whitfield said.

The FBI Uniform Crime Report saw 64 hate crimes reported in 2020 from Mississippi law enforcement agencies.

According to the report, there were 14 hate crimes reported in 2019.

Last September, FBI Jackson Field Office initiated a Hate Crimes Awareness campaign urging people to report crimes to law enforcement and vowing to hold folks accountable.

“If you begin to deter people who are filled with this type of vitriol toward another race of people, then you might have an opportunity to deter those types of actions,” Whitfield said.

Whitfield said the internet is weaponizing the minds of the youth and he wants everyone in the community needs to speak up before it’s too late.

“If parents are not actively involved in viewing and supervising what our young people are watching, we’ll lose an entire generation,” Whitfield said.

Morning Star Baptist Church will host gun violence discussions in the next coming months.

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