I am certain that you have heard that Dylann Roof, the cowardly white male who entered Charleston, South Carolina’s historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and fired 77 bullets in a violent rampage intended to spark a race war between black and white Americans, has been found guilty on all 33 counts brought against him.

Although many will celebrate the guilty verdict, truthfully Roof’s conviction brings neither closure to family members nor justice to an aggrieved nation that is presently straining under the weight of daily occurrences of racial violence. Justice would be

  • Clementa Pinckney (41)
  • Myra Thompson (59)
  • Cynthia Hurd (54)
  • Depayne Middleton-Doctor (49)
  • Daniel “Dapper Dan” Simmons (74)
  • Sharonda Coleman-Singleton (45)
  • Ethel Lance (70)
  • Susie Jackson (87)
  • Tywanza Sanders (26)

to be replaced in their grave by their cowardly killer.

Although I understand that the knee-jerk conclusion that Dylann Roof was crazy is one that many will grab for as it allows them to efficiently move beyond this horrific event without spending a single moment searching for a larger meaning.

I have found that the slanderous characterization of individual historical figures as being crazy is not only dismissive but also provides an opportunistic opening for a society to avoid the chilling reality that the perpetrators of unconscionable evil are merely a reflection of their community.

I continually fight against the application of the c-word — crazy — being applied to historical figures as it prevents others from investigating the catalyst behind their actions. Consider the total damage done by the following individuals and how easy it is to consider them aberrations within a civilized society.

  • Mao Zedong (78 million deaths)
  • Jozef Stalin (23 million deaths)
  • Adolf Hitler (17 million deaths)
  • Leopold II of Belgium (15 million deaths)
  • Hideki Tojo (5 million deaths)
  • Ismail Enver Pasha (2.5 million deaths)
  • Pol Pot (1.7 million deaths)
  • Kim Il Sung (1.6 million deaths)
  • Mengistu Haile Mariam (400,000 – 1.5 million deaths)
  • Yakubu Gowon (1.1 million deaths)

One of my greatest concerns regarding Dylann Roof is that in our rush to get past his reprehensible actions that we fail to realize that he is an appropriate representation of American race relations.

Roof himself refutes assertions regarding his sanity by logically explaining why he entered Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and murdered 9 praying African-American parishioners.  

Apparently, Roof’s motivation flowed from internet research that painted an utterly fallacious portrait of American history that depicted persons of African descent as the continual aggressor in racial conflicts with whites. According to Roof, he is merely a foot soldier willing to sacrifice his life in a larger “…fight to the death between white people and black people.” In Roof’s mind, his horrific actions in Emmanuel AME Church were “but a drop in the bucket” when compared to the centuries of unprovoked attacks that African-Americans have executed against whites.

The most frightening aspect of Dylann Roof’s mindset and flawed understanding of American race relations is that he has much company in his viewpoints, company that is by all indications growing by ‘leaps-and-bounds’ on both sides of the racial divide.

One of the most unfortunate aspects of the internet is that anyone can present themselves as an expert on racial matters and spew stupid conspiracy theories backed by nothing more than an impressive library of historical inaccuracies and fictitious untruths. It is in this hate-filled fantasy realm that black and white Dylann Roof’s develop their irrational thought patterns that when activated seek to destroy others by any means necessary. As Roof has proven, not even their survival is sufficient to deter such individuals.

It is this realization that makes me reiterate the reality that Dylann Roof was neither ‘crazy’ nor an aberration within American society; he is in many ways America’s Native Son. Roof embodies all of the xenophobia, hatred, ignorance, and illiteracies (political, cultural, and historical) that serve as the shelter for such individuals. Rest assured that the spawn of what can only be termed a dysfunctional and highly racist American culture and political climate are at this point a legion and I am confident that we will hear from them more and more frequently.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, & Culture, 2016

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