Shootings' racial aspect examined by NAACP

Authorities unsure of motive behind killings at school

Colorado School Shooting

April 22, 1999|By Michael James and Erin Texeira | Michael James and Erin Texeira,SUN STAFF

Saying that the nation has spawned "a whole new generation of racists," NAACP leaders said yesterday that racial anxiety could be partly to blame for the mass killings in Littleton, Colo.

"This shows that racism can show itself in the face of all young people. These are the kids next door and the kids at the mall," said the Rev. Jamal Harrison Bryant, director of the youth and college division of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "It's pent-up racial anxiety and frustration."

The two gun- and bomb-wielding teen-agers in Tuesday's massacre at suburban Denver's Columbine High School were known to have made racist comments in the past. And some students reported that the teens were looking for minorities and athletes as they swept through the school.

But authorities said there is no evidence that the killers were targeting minorities when they opened fire, and only one of the victims was black.

"I've only seen the photographs, but it appears to me that most of the victims were victims because of where they were at a particular time, not that they were sought out," said District Attorney Dave Thomas. "Most of the victims were in the library, and that's where these two persons ended up. I don't know what the motive was other than anger."

Witnesses said the gun-wielding youths targeted athletes and minorities, laughing at their victims and using a racial epithet to describe the black victim. "All jocks stand up," one of the boys reportedly yelled during the attack. "We're going to kill every one of you."

Classmates said the boys were outcasts who wore black, played war games and sometimes wore Nazi symbols. According to classmates, the boys admired Adolf Hitler and apparently picked his birthday for the attack.

Kweisi Mfume, president of the NAACP, said that if the killings prove to be racially motivated, they would point to the need for Congress to pass the pending Hate Crime Prevention Act.

"This is a time when many young people should be preparing for graduation and summer jobs, not preparing for funerals of classmates," Mfume said. "Chalk in school should be for the blackboard, not to outline bodies."

Leaders at the NAACP said they have begun making arrangements for a peace rally this weekend in Denver, which is one of 11 cities that participated in rallies marking a National Day of Nonviolence earlier this month.

Harrison said the fact that white teen-agers committed the killings shows that "youth violence is not a black issue."

"If you look at the school shootings that have happened around the country in recent years, all of them were done by Caucasian perpetrators," Harrison said. "Yet America still thinks of violence with a black face. This is a whole new generation of racists."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Pub Date: 4/22/99

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