Dylan Roof: An Extremist Not An Anomaly

He’s an extremist, but not entirely an anomaly. And there are those along the spectrum who believe parts of what he wrote in his manifesto (it’s what many have believed for most of American history so of course the ideas persist). And his admission of “subconscious white supremacy” being taught in schools is accurate, sadly leaving even many African Americans to believe some of these things about themselves.

We talk about race because racist hatred is alive in this country and we want people to stop pretending as though it’s dead or there’s only one Dylan Roof and then no other racists. Or that people who share his beliefs don’t sometimes hold public office, or teach in schools, or hand out sentences as judges, or prosecute as a DA, or become police officers, or become hiring managers, or create zoning laws.

The things he has ascribed to my entire race are hurtful and mind boggling, but many people in this country don’t know a single black person well and accept the media’s perspective and whatever their surrounding culture tells them about us. And then the “rare, smart, and nonviolent negro” (read:President Obama) is an exception.

Then we’re not looked at as human, but as the inferior kind. We don’t get stories written up about our troubled homes like Dylan Roof does when we make mistakes and get penalized more severely from the classroom to the courtroom (see Jason Okonofua’s work). We’re labeled thugs, and our “violent nature” is highlighted, not the socioeconomic circumstances and conditions.

I have too many words for all of this but even as I write, there’s this voice saying “your white friends are going to think you’re overreacting and talking about race too much”. But it’s too important to talk about and my only intent is to foster understanding, empathy, and love. And that’s it.

Why Charleston Matters

The Black Church for African Americans has been one of few rocks we’ve been able to cling to throughout our tumultuous history in this country. It has served as more than simply a physical shelter through slavery and civil rights, and an attack on this anchor is the definition of terrorism.

The “you don’t belong here, you’re not protected here, America is not for you” narrative is hammered into our brains from youth. It often starts in the household, with the ideally unnecessary “be careful you are a Black boy” discussion, then quickly becomes too real the first time someone calls you a nigger. It persists in the classroom where history books minimize our contribution to this country while leaving a Black child to think there might be a reason people that look like him were worth less than dogs and then actually upgraded to 3/5ths human in this country. We see our parents’ pain and fear in reaction to incidents like the Rodney King beating and know that these acts of racism are not isolated in time nor place and they have everything to do with all of us in this country.

I know, I know — we’ve had 50 years of “equal rights” to clean our act up, fit in, and pull ourselves up by our bootstraps — 50 years to figure out how to reverse 400 years of legal chattel slavery, torture, rape of Black women, emasculation of Black men and breakdown of Black families. Every Black family sees and feels the lasting generational impact in some form or another. A few of our families have “made it” — but I know firsthand that being an “upstanding, contributing member of society” doesn’t protect us from the pervasive evils of foundational racism.

And then the acts of terror, from the burning down of Black Wall Street to the Birmingham church bombings to this. The police brutality and killing of our youth — reminders that as we work to right ourselves in this country, there are still those people, institutions, and systems that are pitted fiercely in our opposition.

I’ve lived around, and worked with mostly non-Black folks my entire life and have a lot of love for many as family. I just hope they recognize that I’m not a “different category of black man” — that I identify strongly with Trayvon Martin, The Gardner family, Rekia Boyd, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Kalief Browder and God knows I identify with praying church folk in Charelston. It’s so heartbreaking, so difficult, so confusing, so paralyzing at times. I could choose to ignore it, but I must stay awake or how could I possibly be an ally if I blind myself to the reality of the Black experience in America? How can anyone be an ally if they turn a blind eye or remain silent about the truth?

Charleston should matter to all of us. ‪#‎PrayForCharleston‬

Love, Peace, and Blessings