NAACP president: We must go after hate groups

Last Updated Jun 21, 2015 1:14 PM EDT

NAACP President Cornell William Brooks called for more vigorous investigation and prosecution of hate groups in the United States after a young man who displayed racist ideology allegedly shot and killed nine people at a historically black church.

"This crime may have occurred in moments. But it came into being over some time. This young man was indoctrinated, radicalized, if you will, with an ideology of white nationalism or racism. And so the point being here is we've got to look at not only this individual act of brutality. We also have to look at the atmosphere from which it emerged. And we have to address that," Brooks said on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday.

Searching for answers and peace after Charleston attack

A manifesto and photos apparently posted online by the shooting suspect, Dylann Roof, suggested the attack was racially motivated.

"I have no choice. I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country," he wrote. The more than 2,000-word manifesto bemoans the lack of groups like the Ku Klux Klan to take action.

Charleston: Warning signs in atmosphere of hate

Roof writes that he was "not raised in a racist home or environment," and that his attitude towards racism was "truly awakened" by the 2012 Trayvon Martin case, in which Florida man George Zimmerman shot and killed the 17-year-old black teen.

Brooks pointed to the fact that photos of Roof showed him wearing the flag of apartheid-era South Africa and Rhodesia, which became modern-day Zimbabwe. He also drove a car bearing the Confederate flag.

"Each of these symbols is illustrative of an underlying racism in this country, among a minority of Americans, but a level of racism and racial bigotry, and racist ideology that we cannot blink, we cannot ignore," Brooks said. "It is a moral ugliness in our midst, but we've got to address that."

In a separate interview, former FBI profiler Mary Ellen O'Toole said the ideology displayed by Roof "evolves over a long period of time."

"Frankly, it goes back to when he was a small child. You develop your coping behaviors. You develop your outlook on life. You develop an attitude towards violence. And all of that evolves to the point where the world is a bad place to live. The world is filled with enemies. You hate people," she said.

South Carolina Senator: Legislative answer uncertain against that much hatred

Brooks called for the country's "democratic and moral leaders" to talk about the racist ideologies and said there should be enough resources for vigorous prosecution and investigation of hate groups. The country must stamp out racism, Brooks said.

He also reiterated the reasons that the NAACP believes South Carolina must remove the Confederate flag from the state capitol. The NAACP has boycotted the state for years in an effort to bring the flag down.

"The fact of the matter is, that flag represents exclusion. It represents bigotry. It represents bias. There are white nationalist groups across the country who see that flag as representing their values," he said. "In 2015, it's a anachronistic emblem of a bygone era at best. And most likely, and most representative, a set of values that run contradictory, that run counter to who we are as Americans. It has to come down. It must come down."

Sherrilyn Ifill, the president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, said Americans have created a context in which white supremacy is considered more of a different viewpoint than something that should be condemned.

"This is dangerous, fatal for black people," she said. "I think we need leadership, leadership not only in Congress, leadership in law enforcement, to call this what it is, domestic terrorism. And we have to use all of our tools to get at that."

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for