There are problems with this summer's story of Dylann Roof (apparently pronounced "Rauff") and his killing spree at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC, and yet there's a tremendous amount of symbolism involved in it, too.
Of course it's yet another incidence of mass murder by a white male American, one of hundreds over the years. Another day, another massacre. It's American as apple-pie, and according to opinion leaders, there is nothing that can be done about it. Too bad, so sad. Next?
"This is a violent country" -- supposedly -- and "this is a violent culture." Well, yes, true enough. But to then claim that "nothing can be done" about it is just silly. To claim that because elected leaders won't do anything about it, and courts essentially make things worse that therefore nothing can be done is crazy.
I pointed out in another venue that some of the commentary surrounding this mass murder in Charleston recognized that Dylann Storm Roof had for all intents and purposes been granted permission to kill Negroes by systems of impunity for murder of black folks, operating ever single day in this country, and generally involving police committing acts of summary execution -- such as the killing of Walter Scott in North Charleston only a few weeks ago.
Officer Slager is accused of murder in the case of Mr. Scott, and he is apparently being held in the cell next to Roof.
I must qualify a lot of my comments in this post with the term "apparently" because -- apparently -- a lot of the "information" being spread by the media is false. The spreading of false information by media would ordinarily be considered propaganda, but this is a summer news cycle, and during the summer news cycle, false narratives are routinely produced and spread regarding pretty much any topic, false fears are generated (sharks, missing white women), false tales are spun. It's the way the "news" business is organized and operated. Just as the major mass media tends to take the weekends off and produce little or no "news" on Saturdays and Sundays, so the media uses the summer for a vacation from seriousness... It's been this way for generations, and there is little sign of breaking with this tradition.
Thus we need to maintain skepticism in the face of whatever is being said or shown about this mass murder or any other story that is featured in the major mass media over the summer (or really at any other time, but that's another issue.) False information and false narratives are all but guaranteed.
What we can point to with some degree of certainty is that while Negroes continue to be gunned down by police with almost complete impunity, every now and then someone is caught and/or held to answer for doing so, and two of them are being held right now in the North Charleston, SC, jail.
We can also point to the fact that white men who kill Negroes are treated with respect, courtesy and dignity. They are protected by the System. Negroes, on the other hand, are mostly treated like disposable or surplus... animals. They are not simply shot on sight -- though that happens with some regularity -- they are warehoused in vast numbers in America's astonishingly cruel, brutal and exploitative prison-industrial system. They are the meat which feeds the system of injustice in this country. White men who kill Negroes simply don't face the kinds of consequences Negroes face for being alive in this country.
In this case, Dylann Roof was apprehended while armed in North Carolina some 14 hours after he shot and killed nine parishoners at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston. He was reported to have been apprehended "peacefully," though he was reported to be armed. He was taken into custody and provided with a bulletproof vest for his perp-walk on his way to being flown back to Charleston, some 220 miles from his apprehension point.
This sequence was staged for the cameras, and what was so striking about it to me was that Roof was being protected throughout. There was no violence in his treatment at all. A black man in similar circumstances would have been treated roughly -- if, that is, he wasn't shot on sight. That's simply the way "justice" works in the USA. And hardly anyone would consider it unusual.
The message is clear: law enforcement exists to protect the white folks and to suppress the Other.
That's its primary function. When we see such stark examples of it, many people don't even notice.
One aspect of the mass murder that has been extensively reported (though who knows whether it's true?) is that Roof apparently told his victims: "I have to do this. You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country, and you have to go.”
In other words, "You Negroes are making me do this..."
This is a historical claim that has been used for centuries to justify oppression and lynching and all sorts of depredations of Africans and African Americans, the quinessence of victim blaming. The Negro doesn't have to actually do anything to be accused of forcing the white man to act against Negroes who rape white women and would take over the country if they could -- if they weren't being killed and suppressed by heroic police and white vigilance.
They made him do it...
Isn't that always the case though? Whether the excuse is "reaching for his waistband" or being reported to be armed or any number of other supposed "threats," the Negro is always to blame for making the white man kill...Always. Of course it isn't just Negroes who are subjected to summary execution by police and white vigilantes, but they are the most likely to be subjected to it. The fear they inspire in some segment of the armed and vigilant white population is fundamental to very their existence. Without their fear of what the Negro would do if they weren't being summarily killed and routinely suppressed, some of these white folks would have no reason for living...
Police are the primary actors in this drama, but when policing fails (as it did in Charleston when Michael Slager was arrested for the on-camera killing of Walter Scott) it's incumbent on white vigilantes to step in and take care of what needs to be done, right?
One of the stories being circulated is that Roof researched the history of Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston (a founder, for example, was Denmark Vesey who planned a huge slave revolt in 1822; the pastor was Clementa Pickney, a state senator who was responsible for a number of laws restricting police action and making them accountable for their actions...) and he targeted the church on the anniversary of the intended slave revolt and just before Juneteenth, a celebration of the end of slavery. Supposedly, Roof knew quite well what he was doing, where he was acting and why, and he likely intended to induce... panic at the least. According to some reports, he wanted to trigger a civil war or a race war.
Was it because Michael Slager had failed?
I have no way of knowing, but the coincidences are there.
I sensed there was "something in the air" that would make this summer a serious and quite possibly tragic one. I didn't know exactly what it would be, but this mass murder seems to me to be an opening salvo, not the climax, far from it. The summer has only just begun.
Despair is hard to vanquish under the circumstances.
And the killing goes on and on...
[Adding: A history of Charleston's 1822 slave uprising worth pondering in light of current events: