Charleston Shooting, Dylann Roof, and the Confederate Flag Debate

Last Wednesday night, June 17, I was surfing CNN on my phone when I came across this headline: “9 Killed in Charleston Church Shooting.” I shrugged and mumbled, “Ridiculous. Who would go into the House of God and kill everybody?” and went straight to sleep. The next morning, new details of the church shooting emerged, revealing that it was a hate crime against a group of faithful African-Americans.

The gunman, Dylann Roof, who is exactly my age, went to the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church–nicknamed Mother Emanuel my many people in the community–and sat with the prayer group for one hour before he opened fire at everyone, killing nine people, including the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was notable for preaching about love and forgiveness to his congregation. In 1997, Pinckney was elected to the South Carolina State House of Representatives at the age of 23, making him the youngest African-American legislator in the state’s history. His friends and family were–and still are–shocked to hear about his tragic death.

What shocked me and my family the most was what went through the mind of Dylann Roof. It turned out that he had written a manifesto describing his racist views against African-Americans, claiming that coverage of Trayvon Martin’s death “awakened” him to “black on White violence.” He sided with George Zimmerman’s decision to shoot him and was prompted to Google “black on White crime.” Roof came across the website for the Council of Conservative Citizens, which had an entire library of black on White murder cases, and was shocked to see that news stations reported more of Trayvon Martin’s life and death but lacked reports of black on White crimes. The group shut down their website in the midst of negative publicity, but its president, Earl Holt, said the organization was “hardly responsible” for Roof’s heinous actions.

What disgusted me and my mother the most about Dylann Roof was his Facebook photos. Every single picture CNN showed to the public was proof that Roof clearly stood by his racist views against African-Americans, intending to “start a race war,” as he said to one of his friends. Also, Roof didn’t look mentally ill–not that they said he was. Rather, he looked like the son of Satan, like a villain straight out of an old Cartoon Network show (I suppose you know which one it is). And in some of the pictures, his jacket had patches of the flags of apartheid-era South Africa and Rhodesia. One photo even showed Roof waving the Confederate flag.

So began the debate of whether the Confederate flag should still fly, especially over the state capitol of South Carolina. The Confederate flag was used as a battle flag by the Army of Northern Virginia under General Robert E. Lee during the Civil War, and it has been deemed a racist symbol by many Americans–especially African-Americans–ever since. Today, the governor of South Carolina called for the Confederate flag to stop flying over the state capitol. The governors of Virginia and North Carolina declared to remove the symbol from their license plates. Several of the country’s retailers, including Walmart, eBay, and Amazon, decided to ban the sale of the Confederate flag and other products that flash the emblem. I applaud those states and businesses for taking action to stamp out the flag that has been the symbol of racial intolerance for centuries. White supremacy is no longer acceptable in this day and age, and it’s high time that we treat the African-American people with the love and respect that they deserve.

One more thing: Dylann Roof, may you burn in Hell for your display of hatred towards the people whose blood you’ve spilled in the House of God. You’re gonna get the death penalty, anyway.