On Hate Crimes and Denial of Racism

Jesus wept.

As I am sure most of you know, a 21 year old white man named Dylann Storm Roof attended a prayer service at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina and after an hour he started shooting members of the historically black church, killing nine of them.

A survivor reported that as Dylann Storm Roof was murdering black people, six women and three men, he said ““I have to do it … You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”

This is, to all rational people, a hate crime. It was terrorism motivated by race. Dylann Storm Roof targeted his victims because they were black.  It is being investigated as a hate crime by the Department of Justice. Charleston Mayor Joe Riley and Police Chief Gregory Mullen have both called it a hate crime.

Nonetheless, I have already seen complaints about “playing the race card” pop up on my personal Facebook page and disingenuous arguments claiming the crime was not racially motivated in the national media. The white Fox News host Steve Doocy, aided and abetted by black conservative pastor E.W. Jackson are both shocked the Charleston Massacre is being seen as a racially motivated hate crime. Doocy said,  “Extraordinarily, they called it a hate crime,”  “Some people look at it because it was a white guy apparently and a black church. But you made a great point just a moment ago about the hostility toward Christians — and it was a church — so maybe that’s what they’re talking about.”

In sum, it isn’t a hate crime but if it IS a hate crime then it is a hate crime against Christians.

Jackson agreed with Doocy, saying “I long for the day when we stop doing that in our country. We don’t know why he went into a church. But he didn’t choose a bar, he didn’t choose a basketball court, he chose a church.”

Let me help E.W. Jackson and Steve Doocy understand why it was about race and not religion, and why it was terrorism as much as a hate crime. That church was chosen because “Mother Emmanuel” was a site of political activism in the black community and important in the history of civil rights. Professor Kevin Kruse of Princeton University explained that the church is “a touchstone for civil rights activism” and it is “in many ways akin to more famous churches we might think of in the civil rights movement.” Kruse added that he didn’t believe the church had been chosen “randomly”, but because it is a site that has “deep meaning”. Moreover, the pastor of the church – who was among those murdered – was the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, a Democratic state senator and a civil rights leader.

Let us also look at whether the monster Dylann Storm Roof was prejudiced against Christians or black people. Was it Christians or black people he claimed were taking over “our country” and raping “our women”? Well, Dylann Storm Roof drives a car with a “Confederate States of America” license plate on the front bumper, and has a jacket with patches of flags from the white rule-eras of South Africa and Rhodesia (which is now Zimbabwe) on it. Additionally, a former classmate named John Mullins reports the Roof had a reputation for telling racist “jokes” and parroting hard right ideology.

“I never heard him say anything, but just he had that kind of Southern pride, I guess some would say. Strong conservative beliefs,” he said. “He made a lot of racist jokes, but you don’t really take them seriously like that. You don’t really think of it like that.” But now, “the things he said were kind of not joking,” Mullins added.”

No one has come forward, and no evidence has been found, that Roof had any animus against Christians. His dislike was aimed at black people, expressed through “Southern pride” and racist “jokes”.

Dylann Storm Roof targeted a black church know for civil activism and shot black congregants because they were black. He targeted blacks because they were supposedly raping ‘our’ (white) women and taking over ‘our’ (white American’s) country.

It was a racial motivated hate crime. The only person to play the “race card” was Dylann Storm Roof.

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