Thoughts on the Charleston Church Shooting
September 15, 2015
On 17 June 2015 Dylann Roof, a young white man, walked into a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. He sat in that session for an hour, interacted with the pastor and other attendees, then shot and killed nine people in that Bible study. Without doubt, this was a horrendous and totally unacceptable act on the part of Roof. In addition to the pain at every level that is in me because of this incident, I am also deeply troubled by what has been the general response to this sad incident.
Instead of looking for what motivated Roof and how those conditions and thinking might reside in and adversely affect other Americans, leaders and people of influence basically turned to the same old response. That is, pushing gun control, simply declaring Roof a “racist bigot,” and pointing to this event as the result of the racism that allegedly causes everything from poverty among black Americans to efforts to insure the absence of fraud in voting which are declared “voter suppression.” While giving no attention to the “why” of Roof’s actions, the focus became removing the Confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina Capital. Now that the flag has been removed, I still see no attention given to identifying and addressing conditions that motivated Dylann Roof. No, the tremendous focus on racism as the cause of every ill that affects black Americans continues and responsibility is seemingly placed on all white Americans.
Given this all-encompassing blaming of white America, reading and coming to grips with what is supposedly Roof’s manifesto is revealing. Granted, I am probably in a very small group of individuals who have come to this conclusion regarding the manifesto. Note that I have found no report that indicates this document was definitely written by Dylann Roof. What I say in the comments below assumes that he is the writer. Even if it was not written by him, I hold that many of the statements in it should lead to serious examination of what conditions and situations might produce this kind of thinking in anybody and what a society committed to the “good of all” should do about it.
Against this backdrop, here are three of the several thoughts that I find deserving of examination from the manifesto. Direct quotes from the document are in bold print followed by my reaction to each excerpt. I did not correct spelling, grammar, or other errors in the copied quotes:
- “Me and White friends would sometimes would watch things that would make us think that ‘blacks were the real racists’ and other elementary thoughts like this, but there was no real understanding behind it.” From the lead-in, this statement apparently refers to Roof’s experiences in school. Some will find it far-fetched that a white person would say blacks showed racism toward him. Consider the definition of racism as discrimination or hatred based on race. In a climate where so many black Americans, even those in positions of leadership, make negative assumptions regarding the character of white Americans simply because they are white, this statement does not seem far-fetched at all to me.
- “I was in disbelief. At this moment I realized that something was very wrong. How could the news be blowing up the Trayvon Martin case while hundreds of these black on White murders got ignored?” Because of his reaction to the Trayvon Martin case, Roof was led to the website of the Council of Conservative Citizens. I visited the site and it is very current in providing information regarding black on white crime in America. For me, there are troubling items in the organization’s mission statement, but the crime reports paint a grim picture. Then by email from a friend I received a listing of 30 white individuals murdered in America by black males during just a 49 day period in2014. I did not take that listing at face-value, but checked several of them for authenticity. I have no reason to doubt the authenticity of the listing. Every entry on the listing ended with the statement, “No national news.” The question becomes should white Americans be expected to ignore that picture? Statistics and accounts of alleged and actual mistreatment of blacks by whites, especially white police officers, are routinely reported and examined on a national level. In my estimation, Fayetteville, North Carolina where I live is still in a healing process from a recent situation where statistics regarding police searches of black citizens exceeding those of whites led to charges of racial profiling on the part of the city’s police force. This occurrence was purely the result of statistics. However, when an organization or individual in a similar fashion reports black on white crime, their doing so is declared racist and totally unacceptable by much of America. What is one to think about this seeming contradiction that has all the markings of pure hypocrisy?
- “They are always thinking about the fact that they are black. This is part of the reason they get offended so easily, and think that some thing are intended to be racist towards them, even when a White person wouldnt be thinking about race.” In that often quoted text from Matthew 7:1-6 where Jesus addresses “judging,” in verse 3 he says, “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye.” Jesus is saying when we assess the behavior and so forth of others, first insure we have rid ourselves of assumptions, biases, and whatever else might interfere with our being fair in our assessment. The writer of this manifesto contends that racism is often not a factor in the actions of white Americans toward black Americans, but black Americans conclude that racism is absolutely in play. Given the verbal attacks and destructive actions (such as looting, burning, and so forth) that frequently result from these racism conclusions, I cannot even imagine how negatively white Americans must be affected when falsely accused of racism. It has to be a painful, heart-rending experience at every level…Even anger producing.
Given all that is discussed above, I have to believe that many white Americans must be concluding that they no longer matter in this Country. The consequences of continuing to feed that thinking will be far more costly in terms of societal upheaval than we as a nation might be able to overcome. I hear people talk about “Waking-up.” As a nation we better wake-up and deal with this reality by giving voice to those citizens intimidated into silence and then together dealing fairly with all Americans.