Grasping at straws to humanize terrorists like Dylann Roof is a dangerously divisive defense mechanism that’s particularly unacceptable when coalesced with his racism. Some mainstream media outlets are characterizing Roof as an “introvert” living a ”life that had quietly drifted off track”, an oft-used twist of white extremism that depicts the shooters as “lone wolves” who’ve slipped through societies’ grasp, and not endemic of an epidemic. As Anthea Butler pointed out in her Washington Post piece, Black people see through the agenda and we’re not buying it. Despite our increasing awareness, white supremacy is still intent on diversionary journalism.
On June 17th, after six months of planning, Dylann Roof went to a historic AME church in Charleston South Carolina, killed nine Black people on the grounds of “raping (white) women and taking over the country”, and allegedly hurled a racial slur at the lone survivor. He’s seen on his Facebook profile wearing a jacket with Apartheid-era South Africa and Rhodesia patches. Despite the evidence that he committed a racially motivated hate crime, the mainstream coverage was about deflection from the very outset.
During a Fox News segment day the story broke, criminologist Scott Bond stated that he believed Roof’s crime was racially motivated, but the Fox anchor interjected that “we don’t even know the races of the victims, we’re assuming because it was a historically Black church” that the victims were Black. From there, the spin was in.
In the following days, Charleston Mayor decreed the massacre was about “one hateful person”. Two Republican presidential candidates had the opportunity to act like they had a clue, but Rick Perry surmised Roof’s actions were a drug-fueled “accident”, and Rick Santorum framed them as an “assault on religious liberty” before anything else.
Chuck Todd’s bizarre Meet the Press segment, featuring Black convicts crying about their gun use, irresponsibly attempted to make Roof’s assault a “colorblind” issue. In defense of the piece, Todd said “the news is supposed to make people uncomfortable”. Why is it then that they consistently sidestep the uncomfortable truth of modern racism?
As much as the media is attempting to force their narrative, the truth about Dylann is apparent. He crafted a lengthy, hateful manifesto. People who knew Roof have described him as having “strong conservative beliefs” and a desire to start a race war. NBC News cited sources saying he “almost didn’t go through with” the shootings because the churchgoers were “so nice”, but he murdered to carry out “his mission”. He then left one victim alive to tell what happened. Do these seem like the acts of an impulsive madman or a calculated, hateful murderer?
Roof felt he had a “mission” to protect white supremacy, now we’re seeing white supremacy protect him. They said he was a loner, but they found enough friends to humanize him and even a Black one to deny his racism. Not only is some of the media coverage shameful, the resulting legal process is equally reflective of white privilege. Unlike Eric Garner, he was apprehended safely. Unlike Rekia Boyd he wasn’t shot by police, but shielded with a bulletproof vest. Unlike Sheneque Proctor or Freddie Gray, he wasn’t left alone to die in police custody, he was fed Burger King when he complained of hunger.
This flagrant protection of white America is typical, but for Black America it won’t engender the sympathy for Roof or his family that Fox News and South Carolina Magistrate James Gosnell desire, not when our predation is beginning to resemble the Jim Crow era at the hands of people like Dylann. Did they never expect us to realize that shooters of color are frequently attached to gang violence or radical islam while a collective of white mass shooters have been covered individually? The corporate media’s continued misreporting of our race divide fans the flames of racial tensions, especially when they’re grossly beholden to double standards.