Murder and the Myth of Fossilized Racism

The horrific shooting that took place at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina cannot be allowed to exist in isolation. It happened in of one of the oldest black churches in the country, the site of past racial violence. No doubt the killer, Dylann Storm Roof, knew this.

The Daily Beast quickly put together a profile of Roof. In it, they interview folks who knew him, including John Mullins who went to high school with him. Says Mr. Mullins:

“I never heard him say anything, but just he had that kind of Southern pride, I guess some would say. Strong conservative beliefs,” he said. “He made a lot of racist jokes, but you don’t really take them seriously like that. You don’t really think of it like that.”

To be sure, Mr. Mullins concluded that “the things he said were kind of not joking,” but the substance of his statement is deep and profound, and points to why this murder spree happened, why racism still thrives unchecked. Many in our society still don’t believe that racism exists. Such a mindset believes that racist jokes are just fossils of a bygone era, like dinosaur bones you find in the ground. They are inert, dead. The Confederate flag is just a symbol of Southern Pride, and that is all.

Dangerous nonsense. Racism lingering inside of a joke is just as potent, just as alive, just as vital as racism expressed in violence. It is far from inert. One cannot divorce the flag from its history and its continued symbol of white supremacy. One should not need a disaster like these horrible killings for this message to come through.

Mr. Mullins, upon reflection, realized that Roof’s racism was real. Some others still haven’t gotten the message. Some folks have created a page of support for the killer on Facebook.

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Fossilizing racism does not make it go away. Confining it to a bygone era does not make it go away. Labeling it a “youthful indiscretion” does not make it go away. Do not make this man out to be a victim. Learn to recognize his hatred for what is it. Otherwise another Dylann Storm Roof will come out of the woodworks and strike again.

© 2015, gar. All rights reserved.


Murder and the Myth of Fossilized Racism — 2 Comments

  1. I’d also add that people who have racist thoughts don’t understand that not everybody thinks that way. As you may have heard I’m a bit of a basketball fan ;)… And there was that big scandal with the former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers making all these racist statements etc. etc. I cannot tell you the number of people who came to Sterlings defense saying that people were making a big deal out of the situation. I also can’t tell you the number of times these people said something to the effect of “well everybody is a little bit racist”. And when I countered these people with the fact that I I never think of things like that and it would never occur to me to make a joke like that or etc., they just did not believe me.

    I don’t even know if people really don’t think racism exists so much as people have come to think of racism part of the package, not as bad as it used to be, and just not that big of a deal. Which is spookadelic.

  2. It made me so sick to see this on a friend’s page this morning, and there’s a page for “justice” for him? My idea of justice involves a cozy jail cell with a large black man in for murder, too. “Youthful indiscretion”? Pffft.

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