Charleston: The What, The Why, and The How

“I refuse to act as if this is the new normal,” President Obama said at the U.S Conference of Mayors in San Francisco on Friday. The statement is, of course, made in regards to the events that happened in Charleston, South Carolina last Wednesday – a terrorist massacre driven by the racial disparity that is still prevalent in the United States. We could not agree more – we refuse to act as if this is the new normal even if news reports of this racially motivated type have been flooding the internet and TV stations for too long now. Three years ago the murder of Trayvon Martin reignited the conversation of racial hatred in the country, and since then there have been countless similar incidents made public, from Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Yvette Smith, and Rekia Boyd, to name a few. We break down the events in Charleston and as always send our condolences to the victims’ loved ones – may they find peace.

The Terrorist Act

Last Wednesday, June 17th, 21-year-old Dylann Roof entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston with a gun in his hand. Inside the church was a prayer group of 15 people, all Black, 9 of whom were shot at close range and murdered. The victim’s names were Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Clementa C. Pincklney, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Myra Thompson.

The Racially Charged Motivation

A few hours after the murders, Roof’s father and uncle notified the police that the young man in the security tapes was indeed Dylann, leading to his arrest. Roof was led out of his house into maximum-security protection while sporting a bulletproof vest and very lax restrictive force; a clear contrast between how the police have treated White suspects and Black suspects.

Throughout the course of the next few days the motivation behind the massacre surfaced. Roof confessed to police that he had shot at that specific church (a legendary church in African-American history) because he wanted to start a race war. Furthermore, Roof’s website was discovered (the link to which we refuse to share), where two zip files were shared: “photos” and “manifesto.” The photo file was an amalgamation of racially charged portraits of Roof, from snaps of him wearing a jacket with flags of apartheid South Africa and Rhodesia, to him referencing the number 1488 many times (an ode to white supremacists and Hitler), and a slew of photos of him standing proudly with the confederate flag. The manifesto, for its part, described his racist antics; from the progression of his learnings to the days prior to the murders, during which he explains that, "I have no choice. I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of Blacks to Whites in the country. We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the Internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me."

The Conversation in the Media

But perhaps as controversial as the actions that terrorized the Charleston church has been the way the media has portrayed said events. Before Roof’s confession and manifesto were found, conservative media was walking on eggshells, trying to dispel that we were not yet aware of Roof’s mental state, and that it probably was not racially motivated. This created anger amongst those who could see the obvious, and questions as to why people were refraining from calling the act what it was – terrorism – when the media has been so quick to call people of color’s actions terrorist before.

President Obama has made a few public statements in the past week, most recently going on the WTF with Marc Maron podcast show to speak candidly about the racial relations in the United States, using the n-word to exacerbate how little we’ve come and how far we have still yet to go. Jon Stewart, who has made a career out of presenting news with a tinge of sarcasm and humor, said, “I didn’t do my job today…and maybe if I wasn’t nearing the end of the run or this wasn’t such a common occurrence maybe I could’ve pulled out of the spiral, but I didn’t.” In similar fashion, Stewart was blunt about the race relations of the country and the denial that we face to not only acknowledge they exist, but also to solve them.

Gun Control

Of course the racial discussion is a huge part of the problem, but the issue of gun control has been raised yet again. In the same conference in San Francisco, Pres. Obama stated, “More than 11,000 Americans were killed by gun violence in 2013 alone. If Congress had passed some commonsense legislation after Newtown, after a group of children had been gunned down in their own classroom, reforms that 90% of the American people supported…we might still have more Americans with us.” Furthermore, on the Thursday following the shooting, while delivering a statement from the White House, Pres. Obama declared, “at some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.”

Meanwhile petitions and peaceful protests have been held throughout the country to commemorate the victims and to ask that the confederate flag be taken down. In a country that advocates freedom, we stand to ask that all citizens can live free of discrimination. #BlackLivesMatter

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