After the horrific shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, earlier this week, Chuck Todd hosted a panel on gun violence that struck many viewers as tone deaf and privileged. Instead of discussing the shooter's racism, the host implied black-on-black violence was to blame.
Chuck Todd's under fire after insensitive comments about the reality of gun violence on Sunday's Meet the Press.
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The massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17 caused the nation to mourn and contemplate. But many people are attempting to erase the words of shooter Dylann Storm Roof for color blindness in an unjust society.
The victims were Reverend Clementa Pinckney, Reverend Sharonda Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Myra Thompson, Reverend DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Reverend Daniel Simmons Sr., Susie Jackson, and Cynthia Hurd. Pinckey also served as a Democratic state senator and advocated gun safety and control. Each of the victims worked to create a better community in one of America’s oldest African-American churches.
Officials say that the 21-year-old killed nine African-American congregation members after praying together in Bible Study for an hour in order to start a "race war."He now faces nine counts of murder in his bid to solidify his white supremacy.
Even in light of the openly confessed motivation, some Americans still tried to ignore the ramifications and search for new meanings, like S.C. Sen. Lindsey Graham's claim the incident was about the religious persecution of Christianity.
So why is Chuck Todd in hot water?
Todd's segment on Meet the Press coincided with the first day the church opened its doors after the horrific scene just days before, so the audience was fully aware of the significance. In only two days since a judge sentenced the young man and many family members forgave instead of holding onto hatred, the community needed to come together in prayer and connection.
Not only does the aftermath of the Charleston shooting highlight the lack of conversation about what racial lines are being erased for the sake of public convenience, but it also illustrates the very real lack of conversation on gun violence towards people of color.
Roof's grandfather told CNN that the .45-caliber handgun was purchased in April with "birthday money." And while people who know the young man claim to not see the intent, they also report hearing Storm's casual and overt racism. Yet no one took his hateful rhetoric serious. Why?
Roommate and former classmate Joey Meek says the shooter "wanted it to be white with white, and black with black." He claims "Dylann wasn't a serious person, no one took him serious." With such clear references and a feeling of unease, Meek took the gun away the night before, only to return it. Why?
In the middle of an absolution and clarity, he offers a moment of truth. "But if someone had taken him serious, this all would all have been avoided."
Speaking to Todd, Daniel Simmons’s son explained that healing involved the love of community, the antithesis of what Storm wanted to promote. Granddaughter Alana spoke about the support the victims’ families felt in the southern city.
“At the prayer vigil we went to Friday night, everyone was there. And it was just so overwhelming and just so wonderful to see everyone coming together not to bash or to talk about the suspect but to celebrate the lives and to heal together.”
What caused Todd to play an NBC News film about African-American inmates discussing the importance in not picking up a gun right after New York Times correspondent Helene Cooper explained “when I see that battle flag, for me it's a symbol of hatred”?
A history steeped in slavery, racial injustice, and civil rights are pushed aside for a learning moment that has nothing to do with the topic at hand.
In 2012, Mother Jones rounded up the top mass murder shooters in the U.S. and found 44 of the mass killers were white males.
Dylann Storm Roof is white. So why is Todd bringing up black-on-black violence, a statistic often used out-of-context to derail conversations about race in America? He then went on to tell viewers, “we simply ask you to look at this be a colorblind issue, as it is about just simply gun violence.”
Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson pointed out the piece didn’t tell the full story, didn’t show the diversity of gun violence. “Right now, we're talking about a horrific crime committed by a white man.”
Cooper added that the United States is “very wedded” to gun ownership. And cynically, she knows nothing will progress since Sandy Hook Elementary School’s massacre didn’t inspire any change.
It’s a learned social mechanism when people believe nothing is going to propel political movement for safety of citizens. Gun control is a hotly contested debate in the political and public spheres.
Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s inclusion in the panel focused on the grace of God and the healing through prayer. The same ideas the victims’ families want to use to honor loved ones; however, not once did Huckabee reference the clear racial divide in the attack.
Instead of listening to a panel with African-Americans, the host chose to use common tactics to derail the conversation he put forth. And now members of the public are asking for Chuck Todd to be relieved of duty on Meet the Press. In a softball fashion, Todd used his white privilege to undermine the very discussions being proposed in the panel.
In response to the call for firing, Chuck Todd released a statement wherein he claimed that the footage had intended to be shown before Wednesday’s massacre. Internally, the debate on relevancy landed on the side of wanting “to show multiple sides of what gun violence does in this country” and “the consequences of gun violence should not be hidden.”
Feeling that “Meet the Press should make all viewers uncomfortable at some point or we are not doing our job,” the NBC correspondent signed off with hopes that “folks view the gun video as a part of the conversation we should all be having and not the totality of it.”
Perhaps a good idea would have been to delay the segment for several weeks in the wake of such a tragic incident – or to include the claimed multiple sides to gun violence in the first place. And to let mainstream media open up and be honest in what is really happening in the United States.
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