After a white gunman, Dylann Storm Roof, shot and killed 9 African-Americans in a predominately black South Carolina church, conservative pundits and politicians wasted no time trying to dismiss racism as a factor in the shooting. Instead, the conservatives pivoted to define the terrorist attack on the historic black church as part of the “war on Christianity”.
For example, over at Fox & Friends, Steve Doocy was astonished that the killing spree was being labeled a hate crime, just because a white guy shot up a black church. While he argued that investigators shouldn’t jump to conclusions, he then drew his own conclusions. Since in Doocy’s world view racism no longer exists, the shooter must have been motivated by “hostility towards Christians” instead.
Fox & Friends guest Reverend E. W. Jackson, a failed former candidate for Virginia Lt. Governor and an African-American defender of segregation, was quick to dismiss the significance of race. Instead, he blamed the shooting on a war against Christianity. Jackson stated:
There does seem to be a rising hostility against Christians in this country because of our biblical views…Most people jump to conclusions about race. I long for the day when we stop doing that in our country. But we don’t know why he went into a church, but he didn’t choose a bar, he didn’t choose a basketball court, he chose a church, and we need to be looking at that very closely.
Apparently Jackson thinks if the shooter was after black people he would have gone to a bar or a basketball court, because African-Americans like to drink and shoot hoops. In Jackson’s view the shooter was just a color blind anti-Christian assassin who coincidentally chose a black church and shot dead 6 black women and 3 black men without noticing their race.
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum also labeled the shooting as an assault on religious liberty, not a racially-motivated assault on people of color. Santorum stated:
This is one of those situations where you just have to take a step back and say we — you know, you talk about the importance of prayer in this time and we’re now seeing assaults on our religious liberty we’ve never seen before.
“America’s Mayor” Rudy Giuliani also urged people not to jump to conclusions or to inject race into the discussion, arguing:
We have no idea what’s in his mind. Maybe he hates Christian churches.
Conservatives are so busy trying to deny racism exists, and so determined to cast themselves as victims of religious persecution that they are unable to confront the ugly truth even when it stares them in the face.
The suspect, Dylann Storm Roof, who was arrested Thursday morning, appears on his Facebook page donning a jacket with an apartheid-era South Africa patch and a flag of Rhodesia patch. Both symbols are worn by White Supremacists to signify support for restoring “white rule”. Another photograph shows Roof posing in front of a car with a front license plate reading “Confederate States of America.” Those images just might suggest that he chose a black church for his target because he knew that their would be black people inside.
In addition, the suspect’s MySpace page contains very little content, but it does prominently display a song from the Christian heavy metal band “A Thousand Times Repent” on it. While a single song link doesn’t necessarily give much insight into Roof’s religious views, it does at least provide evidence that he might self-identify as a Christian. Unless the folks at Fox & Friends want to argue that obscure Christian metal bands are the music of choice for atheists, they are running out of evidence for their narrative that Roof’s crime was motivated more by hatred towards Christianity than hatred towards blacks.
Law enforcement agencies are treating the Charleston Church shootings as a racially-motivated hate crime, because all the evidence points in that direction. Conservatives can try to spin the story if they like, but the truth is plain as can be. Dylann Storm Roof committed a hateful act of domestic terrorism in a church full of black people. Their is no other way to spin it but to call it what it was… a racially motivated hate crime.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.