We are standing on the precipice of a new Dark Age, of which Dylann Roof is one of its offspring. Rejecting a salvation history that maintains we are moving toward a more enlightened and just future, I argue that dark ages of ignorance follows spans of enlightenment creating at times downward spirals, at other times upward spirals, yet at other times unrelated and unconnected events; in other words, a nonlinear disjointed, multidimensional passage of time. Philosopher Michel Foucault argued that history does not exist, as per Hegel, as an internal and necessary unfolding dialectic flow moving in linear discourse; rather, what exists is a permanent historical discontinuation. History is not define through triumphant metanarratives, but instead is a kaleidoscope comprised of contradictory and complex untold stories and struggles of the very least among us who remain unnamed. History is full of stories of evil vanquishing good, brutality crushing peace. Dylann Roof demonstrates the consequences of a white American that refuses to seriously wrestle with its historical racism interwoven into the very fabric of the present by hiding behind the false construct of a post-racial society. The next few postings have less to do with Dylann Roof, concentrating instead on the societal norms that produced a Dylann Roof.
As much as we may desire to depict Roof as a demented lone wolf, he is more representative of our society – contrary to our comfort level or protestations. Roof’s views did not arise ex nihilo. In his 2,500 word manifesto he asserts that he was “not raised in a racist home or environment.” What then explains his race-based worldview? Roof’s racist education is a product of a society that despises the educated, labeling them as elitists, while embracing falsehood wrapped in religious superstitions. Rather than politicians, journalists, and religious leaders arising to guide those choosing darkness, many “leaders” instead perform to the most crass stereotypes so as to incite fear in exchange for votes, popularity, or increased personal revenue. Roof may have pulled the trigger nine times, but the fingerprints of those responsible for Roof’s education are also all over the murder weapon. Fear and hatred are powerful manipulative tools by which to lead those seeking simplistic answers. The danger facing our society is that our recurring amnesia concerning issues of racism and ethnic discrimination will soon reemerge as we move to lament the next tragedy to come.
For this first installment of a multipart exploration on the education of Dylann Roof, it behooves us to begin with his manifesto, specifically, what he considers to be formative in his educational development. According to the manifesto, Roof writes that: “the event that truly awakened me was the Trayvon Martin case. I kept hearing and seeing his name, and eventually I decided to look him up. I read the Wikipedia article and right away I was unable to understand what the big deal was. It was obvious that Zimmerman was in the right. But more importantly this prompted me to type in the words ‘black on White crime’ into Google, and I have never been the same since that day.”
Roof states that his search led him to Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a white supremacy organization that arose from the defunct 1950s White Citizen Council – a then more “respectable” alternative than the KKK. He writes, “The first website I came to was the Council of Conservative Citizens. There were pages upon pages of these brutal black on White murders. I was in disbelief.” The groups’ website stands firm against “all efforts to mix the races,” believing “that the American people and government should remain European in their composition and character.” The CCC calls for severely restricting immigration, abolishing affirmative action and dismantling the “imperial judiciary” that produced the 1954 Supreme Court Brown v Board of Education decision. More damming is the CCC commitment to incite fear of blacks through its multiple “documentation” of black-on-white crime, claiming that 85% of violent interracial crimes are committed by blacks against whites.
The CCC participated in the education of Dylann Roof, whose manifesto labeled Latino/as as enemies, and portrayed “Negroes” as having low I.Q.s, low impulse control, and high testosterone levels. Not surprisingly, before Roof began his murderous rampage, he became argumentative during the AME Church Bible study. He is reported to have said “. . . you’ve raped our women and you taking over the country. I have to do what I have to do.” He hoped his action would incite a race war.
Although exposing how the CCC contributed to the education of Dylann Roof is important, what is more crucial for the purpose of this study is: who else does the CCC hate group educate? It is deeply troubling that the major beneficiaries of the CCC’s political generosity are right-wring conservative presidential Republicans, especially those with connections to the Tea Party. The presidential candidates that the CCC supports are Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), former-Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY). They also made past contributions to not-yet-announced Governor Scott Walker (R-WI). And while all took the politically correct action of returning the donations, we must struggle with understanding why the CCC found these particular candidates appealing to their core values? These four individuals are not isolated examples. During the 1990s, the CCC was a major contributor to powerful Republican politicians, i.e. former Senate majority leader Trent Lott (R-MS), former national Republican chairperson Governor Haley Barbour (R-MS), and current presidential candidate who was then Lieutenant Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AK).
Although we should avoid guilt by association, still, what is it about the positions taken by these politicians that attracts and motivates a hate group to provide them with campaign contributions? These politicians share with the CCC a commitment to limited government, state rights, anti-affirmative action positions and gun rights. Obviously, holding these views does not make one a racist, but it should elicit a pause as to why a racist group holds such views and why do politicians (and fellow citizens) hold similar views.
During the Jim and Jane Crow era, Democrats were the guardians of the South’s racist social structures. Then, the passage of the Civil Right’s act under President Johnson and the implementation of the Southern Strategy under President Nixon reversed the roles of Southern society’s gatekeepers. Republicans, the party of Lincoln, began to win elections by appealing to Whites’ racist fears. It was not a coincidence that then-presidential candidate Ronald Reagan announced his 1980 candidacy by advocating state’s rights in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the site of the 1964 slaying of three Civil Rights activists. This is not to excuse Democrats from their own, more paternalistic, racist strategies. Nevertheless, during the second half of the twentieth century, Republicans have mastered playing the race card to win elections better than most.
The political strategy employed since Nixon is responsible for creating tension among racial groups, a tension upon which the education of Dylann Roof is based. Today’s Republican initiatives such as suppressing the vote of people of color (specifically blacks) through id registration, dismantling affirmative action, and aggressive gerrymandering that disenfranchises minority communities to protect Republican seats all create an American race-based habitus. Because CCC contribution beneficiaries like Santorum believed that Roof’s assault was an attack of religious liberty, while Cruz and Walker straddled the fence on removing the confederate flag as a racist symbol; returning CCC contributions is simply not enough.
Racism (against Blacks) and ethnic discrimination (against Latino/as) continues to be rewarded. Even before the victims of the institutional racism sustain by politicians were buried, presidential candidate Donald Trump was referring to Mexican immigrants as rapists. “When Mexico sends its people they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people.” Trump, and his apologists, follow the CCC logic by scapegoating Latino/as in creating the false norm of Hispanic on White crime. While corporate America rushes to server their ties with Trump, Republican presidential politicians, mindful of the delicate balance of appealing to fearful aging white voters needed to win in 2016, refuse to condemn or rebuke his racist comments. Some, as in the case of Cruz, applaud Trump. Others offer muted protestations.
Of course, Trump is currently portraying himself as the victim of political correctness, punished for “speaking the truth” by canceled contracts with Univision, Macy’s and NBC. What is disturbing about Trump’s racist remarks is that he is now polling in second place in Iowa and New Hampshire, behind Jeb Bush. The education of all the Roofs, along with the rest of the U.S., will continue because white American voters insist on rewarding politician’s ignorant racist stereotypes, while politicians, pandering for votes, continue in their complicity with the consequences of such racist remarks as demonstrated in the heinous murders of Charleston. Even more disturbing is the public’s response to the recent arrest of an undocumented immigrant who murdered a white woman. Immediately, the case became fodder in the immigration debate vindicating Trump racist chants, proving that the murderous acts of one undocumented immigrant proves all Mexican immigrants are criminals. The predominance of this type of logic, which is educating the next Dylann Roof, means that it is only a matter of time that we again feign outrage when the next massacre of citizens of color occurs.