A Few Initial Thoughts Following the Tragic South Carolina Church Massacre
It’s too early to say much about the tragic shooting at a church in South Carolina last night. We’ve seen, all too often, that the earliest news about these sorts of events is wrong in some or many details. So I don’t want to dive deeply into motivations, revisit my previous discussions about gun control, or talk generally about the state of race relations in America. But I do want to make a few very brief observations.
First, the subject was captured. Alive. Perhaps it’s merely coincidence; perhaps there are far more variables involved… But I find it interesting that Dylann Roof was captured alive, just like James Holmes (the Aurura Colorado theater shooter), F. Glenn Miller, Jr. (the neo-Nazi who shot three people at a Kansas City Jewish community center), Eric Frein (the man who hid in the woods to assassinate police officers in Pennsylvania), Jared Lee Loughner (the Tucson shooter who wounded Congresswoman Giffords and killed 6 others), Ryan Elliot Giroux (the white supremacist skinhead who killed several people in Arizona earlier this year), and others. Each of those people was (I believe) armed when apprehended. Now, compare that to the repeated stories that we’ve seen recently of unarmed African Americans, often teens (or younger), who are killed by police, sometimes for a minor infraction, other times after committing no crime at all. It’s just one of those things that makes you say, “Hmm.”
Second, if a shooting like the one in South Carolina took place in Iraq and the shooter was a Sunni and his targets were a group of Shiites, we’d have no trouble calling the shooter a terrorist. If the shooter was a Muslim and his target was any group of Americans, we’d have no trouble calling the shooter a terrorist (especially if those Americans were in a church praying). But when the shooter is a white man, the kneejerk reaction is to say that he was “troubled” or suffered from mental illness. That may be true; he may have been mentally ill. But if, as early reports indicate, he expressed his desire to kill African Americans simply because they were African Americans, then isn’t that the exact sort of conduct that we would classify as terrorist if the shooter wasn’t a white, Christian American?
Finally, when I heard members of South Carolina’s government speaking about the shooting this morning, it made me wonder whether South Carolina would lower to half staff the Confederate battle flag that flies in front of the State Capital.
I mean, it’s not like the Confederate battle flag could ever be thought of as a sign of racial division or prejudice, right? And I’m sure that those who support flying a Confederate battle flag would think it appropriate to lower the flag to half staff to commemorate African Americans who were killed in a church that was once burned down by those who supported slavery and which later served as a stop on the underground railroad. Am I right?
Updated June 26 to correct typos.