On Wednesday afternoon during a Bible Study session on June 17, 2015, a young man, Dylann Roof, visited the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, spent about an hour there watching a bible class, then during the prayer session that followed he took out his new pistol with a laser sight and shot nine parishioners, killing them all.
Dylan Roof, who had recently turned 21 years of age, was an unemployed high school drop-out. He had failed and had to repeat the ninth grade of high school. To look at a photograph of the youngster one would guess that he was about 16 or 17 years old. He had purchased the pistol probably after receiving a money gift from his father as a birthday present on his 21 birthday.
Looking at a picture of this youngster and reading about him one gets the impression of a total loser. High School had been too much for him. He had been unemployed, very possibly incapable of holding a simple job. At 21 he was an absolute nobody, dependent still upon his father for support. He is the perfect example of what Southerners would call “white trash,” a nobody, a nothing.
I remember being stationed during my two year stint in the military during the second half of the 1950s, shortly before the Civil Rights Movement took off in the U.S. in both Georgia and South Carolina. And I remember that the raunchiest and poorest white man considered himself superior to the richest and/or best educated black man in the cities of Augusta, Georgia or Aiken, South Carolina, the two major cities located near the bases where I served in the military.
It seems, even with the Civil Rights Movement and the 1965 Voting Rights Law, that racial superiority is alive and still flourishing in the United States, particularly in the Southern States. This nothing youngster, who had his own hate sight on the internet, in which he showed himself wearing white symbols of former ruling Black States in Africa and burning an American flag while waving the Southern battle flag with his other hand, apparently felt that it was his mission to help purify the white American race by killing a number of Blacks, who in his words “were raping white women and taking over the country” from superior Whites. What confused me about this act of so-called purification was why he shot more women than men.
Dylann Roof apparently had thought of killing himself directly after the shooting but changed his mind or didn’t have the nerve to carry it out. Instead he fled the scene and was picked up over two hundred miles away from Charleston. He had been captured on television in the Church and readily admitted his deed.
The news media has been vigorously covering this story and following all its ramifications. One of the items they seem to have missed was the question of to what extent was his father responsible by giving his unemployed, high-school drop-out son enough money to buy an expensive pistol? I’ve read nothing about the father other than he exists and that his wife left him at some point in the past. Is this a standard operation in South Carolina, to allow your son to arm himself when he turns 21, regardless of his mental state? Is the boy an extension of his father or did he develop his superior attitude by himself? Are these questions being investigated and is it still too early to answer them?
Another question that has developed is the questioning of the Civil War flag flying from the front of the state capital. This flag was readapted in 1962 by the State of South Carolina as a protest against the 1962 lunch counter sit-in by Blacks in that state. It was a reaction to one of the first Civil Rights protest actions in the South. It continued to fly until recently at the state capital. It still flies throughout many states in that part of the country and exists on the automobile license plates of several Southern states.
Initially Senator Lindsey Graham of S. Carolina stated that the flag denotes to the people of the state who they are. Days later, after the governor of the state, Nikki Haley, had stated that it was time to get rid of the flag which is a symbol of slavery and segregation or hatred by the two groups. She also stated that it is time to reconcile the entire population as one people. Graham agreed that it was time that the flag came down.
Other Southern states, North Carolina and Virginia are going to take the flag off of their automobile license plates as soon as possible and one of these states is going to remove a commemorative statue of a Civil War hero and Klansman that stands in the area of its capital building.
Interestingly I’ve heard no comments from the National Rifle Association but it may be too early for them to comment. They usually wait for the emotions to die down in mass shooting incidents before they say anything, which usually consists of having the pastors or teachers or whomever go around armed in case of an emergency. Can you see college or high school students walking around their compasses with concealed weapons?
These statements by the NRA are understandable when one realizes that a part of their Board of Directors is made up of gun, magazine, and ammunition manufacturers. These companies fund them with millions of dollars each year. They would love to extend their base of customers. Particularly since most of these companies that have been around for a long time are not doing well on the stock market.
One would assume that there are some laws about gun ownership in South Carolina. And they would be right there are some. There are none for rifles or shotguns but there is one for handguns. There is no permit, registration, or licensing required but a non-drug police arrest record is required for carrying a concealed handgun. Apparently anyone purchasing a handgun has to wait three days to be cleared by the F.B.I. Root had been picked up a year or so earlier for drug possession but somehow the F.B.I. never found this out within the three business days and he was given the weapon. Apparently the F.B.I. receives twenty to thirty thousand requests for this type of information per day.
Because of an error Dylann Roof, who had been arrested several times, once for drug possession, and was a white supremacist with his own internet blog, was able to purchase a pistol with a laser sight. I would assume that much of what he believed he had heard not only from his friends but also from his father and his father’s friends. The statement that Blacks are always raping white women and taking over the country would be generic among his group and the white supremacist’s blogs he, no doubt, followed on the internet. Apparently derogatory statements of hate can go a long way with some people!
This brings up an interesting question: How far does freedom of speech extend? There are libel laws where an individual can sue someone who wrongly libels him. But to what extent is someone on the internet calling for mayhem and violence responsible for an act committed by one of their adherents? If someone is targeted for death by a hate group and then someone else commits the crime then is only the perpetrator guilty? Where does responsibility for verbally proposing hate end? Are there or should there be limits on this type of free speech? Does change always have to follow tragedy?
There have been positive responses to the shootings. South Carolina has taken down its Civil War flag by the capital building. Other Southern states are in the process of taking similar actions. No doubt many Ku Klux Klan heroes of the past will now fade and many street names will be changed. Apple sells Civil War games at its stores. These apparently all contain the Civil War flag and have all been removed from Apple stores. Walmart is no longer selling anything that contains images of the Civil War Battle Flag.
The one exception seems to be Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin. He just signed a bill that ended the waiting period for the purchase of handguns. Originally anyone buying a pistol in Wisconsin had to wait 48 hours before receiving his merchandise; now the individual can just walk out with his new pistol at the time of purchase.
There is a very happy looking picture of Walker posted on the internet signing the bill, which he said, had been planned before the Charleston incident. He saw no reason to delay this planned event.
President Barak Obama gave the eulogy for the nine murdered individuals at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. He said, among other things, that the Lord works in strange ways. The killings strongly indicated that the South consists of two societies, one White and one Black; and that all the symbols permeating the societies engender strong negative feeling among the White population. Beginning with the Civil War flag and going on to all the statuary of Klansmen and the streets and boulevards named after these individuals have and are engendering lasting bigotry and racial hate, feelings of superiority and inferiority. It is time to follow what Republican governor, Nikki Haley stated, it is time for the Southern states to become a government of all its people.