So before we get into a philosophical, Monday morning quarterbacking snippy debate about if the act was terrorism or a hate crime, let's trod down history's lane and try to understand how we got here.
History tells us that South Carolina was the first state to breakaway; secede, from the Union of the United States. Today, centuries later, after the Confederacy's butt was thoroughly kicked, you'd think that the ideology of racism and white supremacy were good and properly dead and buried. You'd be very wrong, because white people in South Carolina are still very proud of their Confederacy history and heritage.
In fact, the shots that the state fired at Fort Sumter that triggered the bloody and brutal Civil War were also a clear political statement at the time, that said that South Carolina did not want the United States, the Union, to abolish slavery. It was an ideological and political position about protecting their rights to hold Africans as property and of expanding slavery across the whole of the United States.
Today, many historians have concluded that South Carolina was and still is the ideological home of white racism and modern day white supremacy in the United States. It was therefore no surprise that Dylan Roof, the alleged shooter, would brandish on his chest flags of the old Rhodesian white supremacist state and that of the Boer South African state that brought white supremacist ideology and practice to levels outstripped only by Nazi Germany.
He also held the hated (for Black people) Confederacy flag that still flies everywhere in South Carolina. That this angry and utterly ignorant peon of a white man deliberately chose a church founded by Denmark Vessey, the hung rebel slave who dared to rise up against white oppression in the form of chattel slavery, speaks volumes to a mindset that still is just below the social surface in South Carolina today.
Indeed, the church, called Mother Emmanuel, represented a symbol of Black liberation and struggles against white oppression and white state terrorism. And as many mourn, forgive, cry, join hands and do the coombiah thing, the underlying causes and social relations that today spawn angry white men like Dylan Roof remains unarticulated and covered.
You see, in America today, there is a deep fear of confronting and dealing with white racism and its various manifestations -- including mass murder. The spin cycle and groping for justification has already started: mental illness caused him to flip, he was insane temporarily, he was a lone wolf and he was taught racism by his family and friends. Taken in total all of these safe, fallback explanations are designed to say this: Yes, he murdered nine Black people but he was not himself at the time, he was not to blame.
National cowardice and collective white shame causes the collective white conscience to look everywhere -- except where we should be looking. Until and unless America confronts and atones for its racist past it will always be with us. Until, America grows up and accepts responsibility for the evil that was slavery that morphed into the institutionalized racism of today then we will continue to give birth to many more Dylan Roofs.
In South Carolina, wed to its racist, white supremacist past as it is, the first step in confronting this racism is to tear down the Confederacy Flag that is a daily reminder of its ugly history. I am not suggesting that the Confederacy did not happen nor that it was and is not part of South Carolina's history. Like slavery it did happen. But to pay homage to it whether overtly or covertly is to live in a past that has been discredited and abandoned. The flag should be relegated to the dump heap of history lest it continue to corrupt many more Dylan Roofs.
Today, in 2015, you can walk into any building or school in any county in South Carolina and find that they're named after Confederate heroes. This embarrassing incident will bring outraged Blacks and whites together because times, admittedly, have changed and are changing. But old habits, beliefs and practices die very hard, especially in the South.
The fact is that many white South Carolinians still revere the Confederacy's history, the role that the state played in it, and they see nothing wrong about the prior enslavement of Africans is most revealing. Remember, they burned down the church after hanging Denmark Vessey in a fit of white rage and revenge. That's the history that little white children are fed in schools and at home.
The evidence is there in the chilling words of Dylan Roof this angry white man who said that "black men want to rape our women and take over." This discredited and outmoded racist canard so popular in the post-slavery South helped to instill subjective hatred of Black people in the minds of generations of white children and adults. This is the mother's milk that continues to nurture white supremacist ideology.
This is what white -- and Black America -- is ducking and shying away from; they just don't what to deal with this still-festering issue. The problem is that the formula for Black mass murder is very simple: guns + racism. This angry white man was able to get a gun as easy as buying an Aspirin in a corner store. Amazingly, no elected leader -- from President Barack Obama -- on down will dare say that we have way too many guns in private hands and that this is a contributing factor in this heinous crime. They fear and cower at the mere mention of the NRA.
Rather, what you're going to hear are the tired old cliches about gun control as if a trigger lock or a background check is any deterrent to white supremacy and racism. Either that or we're going to set up some commission to study the issue. But, underlying all this is the fact that White America still sees Arabs as terrorists, especially if they are Muslim, Latinos and Mexicans as illegal immigrants, and Blacks as street corner thugs.
On the contrary when it comes to white criminality, white people and the media bend over backwards to find reasons for white mass murder perpetuated by angry white men often chalking it down to mental illness and "temporary insanity." Thing is only white people are allowed the luxury of "temporary madness or insanity;" only white people are absolved from acts of domestic terrorism because of a "history or abuse as a child."