The Root of Dylann Roof’s Evil
Most of the time, when a topic or event angers me, it isn’t hard to channel my emotion and write feverishly on the topic. However, last week was different. When Dylann Roof walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church last Wednesday, sat in the back during a bible study for an hour, then took out his .45 caliber pistol and killed those nine people, I was at a loss for words. I have tried to write about Charleston even since the incident, but felt paralyzed. For the first time, I was unable to transform that horrible combination of sadness and anger into coherent prose. Dylann’s horrible crime didn’t have the death toll of the terrorist attacks on the Boston Marathon, the World Trade Center, the school in Sandy Hook, or the movie theater in Aurora. However, despite this, Roof committed the worst incident of terrorism that we have witnessed on American soil in decades.
In saying that, I don’t want to minimize these other attacks, where many innocent people were killed for seemingly no reason. Any mass shooting, whether in a high school or at a military base, is at it’s core a devastating and horrific act. The fact that we have more mass shootings here in America than any other industrialized nation is a major issue, and each time we see the breaking news stories, and pictures of victims who were taken from this world before their time, we need to look in the mirror and examine why we live in a country where so many people feel the need to kill fellow humans who they don’t even know personally. Charleston was different. Dylann killed a state senator, a public library manager, a high school track coach, an enrollment counselor, and other church members and we know the reason. This wasn’t random. He was a racist and they died because they were black. He literally told them in the last moments of their lives.
Implicit racism is built into the fabric of America. We see the effects in our courts, our education system, and it’s codified throughout the mainstream media and in popular discourse. Those white families were searching for food in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, while those black families were looting. Those sports fans are simply celebrating while the black community members nonviolently struggling for justice are rioting. Nothing sickens me more than the initial news reports from Charleston, where reporters on national television seemed unsure why Roof decided to enter the historic black church with the intent to kill. Even as the picture surfaced on social media of that degenerate piece of shit wearing a jacket which featured the flags of apartheid South Africa and white-ruled Rhodesia, politicians like Rick Santorum and Rick Perry were talking about how it was an attack on Christian faith. Just like other white mass-murderers, such as James Holmes and Adam Lanza, the news media framed Dylann Storm Roof as a “lonewolf” who was troubled. News outlets treated the massacre as if it were a natural disaster and Rick Perry actually called it an “accident.” It wasn’t until the full manifesto surfaced that the media coverage began to reflect that this wasn’t Hurricane Sandy or a derailed Amtrak train, but a racist attack where churchgoers were killed simply because they were black, over 150 years after the end of the civil war.
What is even more disturbing is that one of his influences was Earl Holt III, who runs the Council of Conservative Citizens, a group which has donated to many Republicans in office, including Presidential candidates such as Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, and Ted Cruz. Sure, now they are returning the money as blowback from the attack, but this is just a public relations gesture. The fact that the leader of this white supremacist group, which condemned the attacks but not Roof’s ideas, is a prominent Republican donor really speaks volumes about the institutional racism which exists in America.
The debate has now moved to the confederate flag, an antebellum symbol which has NEVER been appropriate in the post-Civil War United States. While many southern politicians, including former Louisiana governor, Haley Barbour, claim that the flag is representative of southern pride, they all ignore that the Confederate States of America were formed to protect the practice of slavery. Nothing else. We have seen the beginnings of a paradigm shift over the past week, as states like South Carolina and Louisiana are now removing the confederate flag from their state capitols, and Virginia has already decided to no longer offer license plates with this image which represents white supremacy and black pain. Corporations such as Wal-Mart and Sears have also distanced themselves from the tragedy by banning products which depict this outdated, hateful symbol. However it’s too late for this pathetic public relations game, which underscores how prevalent and accepted the flag was before Dylann Roof decided that he wanted to try to spark a new civil war.
In honor of the victims of this horrible tragedy, we must not see Nikki Haley, Strom Thurmond’s son, or any of the other conservative leaders who now condemn the flag as heroes. Nazi flags are only displayed in museums in Germany, and the tragedies that the confederate flag represents are on par with the Holocaust. Would you commend someone who led a state that displayed the Nazi flag outside of their state capitol for years, only to call for it to be taken down after pressure because there was a Nazi-inspired attack on Jewish people? No. There is no apology for this. Dylann Roof is not a lone wolf. Even though he pulled the trigger, he is not the only murderer responsible.
The ideas of Earl Holt III and the Council for Conservative Citizens killed those people. Every right-wing politician who accepted contributions from these radical hate groups and defended the confederate flag killed them. Fox News and other media outlets who promote these white supremacists killed them. Any media story which now treats that disgusting racist with any compassion whatsoever, are just as guilty as he is. White extremists have committed many more acts of terror than any member of ISIS or Al-Qaeda since the day that the World Trade Center fell, and they continue to receive support from the very same hardliners who want endless war to fight Islamic terrorism.
Now that Dylann Roof has been arrested, this issue will go to the courts, where the debate will be whether Roof should be given the death penalty. I’m sure that pundits and politicians will attempt to redeem themselves by also calling for Roof to be punished to the full extent of the law. We must not simply execute the one offender, but the entire white supremacist system which fed him the ideas and provided him with his justification. Yes, I agree, it is too late to rehabilitate Dylann and now he must die for his sins. But giving him the death penalty won’t be enough. Even after this poisonous human being ceases to exist, the root of his evil will still live on.