Last night’s racially motivated killings in Charleston

It was reported last night that six women and three men had been shot to death at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina. The victims, who were all black, had been attending a bible study meeting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, when a young white man entered and took a seat among them. According to a survivor of the attack, the man sat with them for nearly an hour before pulling out a gun and starting to execute them one by one. According to a survivor of the attack, the man, while reloading his gun, said the following…. “I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.

One might think, based on that piece of evidence, as well as several other things that have surfaced about the alleged gunman since the attack, that these killings were somehow racially motivated. There is, however, in the opinion of presidential candidate Lindsey Graham, who hails from South Carolina, a bigger picture. The Senator, who appeared on The View this morning, had the following to say.

“There are people out there looking for Christians to kill them.”

It should be noted that the Senator also defends the fact that the Confederate flag still flies over the South Carolina Capitol… a flag, by the way, that was also on the license plate of Dylann Storm Roof, the man who is thought to have committed these murders.

Speaking of the role race either played or didn’t play in these killings, here’s a photo of Roof taken from Facebook. The patches on his jacket, in case you’re curious, are the apartheid-era flags of South Africa and Rhodesia.


But this wasn’t an act of racism so much as it was a crime against Christians, right?

To his credit, Graham did also acknowledge the racial element, but downplayed it, saying essentially that America’s pretty much dealt with its racist past, and that this was just the act of one sick individual.

Somehow, when it’s Muslim terrorists killing Americans, they’re never just “sick individuals.” No, when they do terrible things, it’s always part of a coordinated attack against us. But when white men kill people, they’re always just isolated incidents.

For what it’s worth, there seem to have been a lot of these isolated events as of late. Just a few months ago, as you may recall, a white police officer shot an unarmed black man to death in South Carolina. He, of course, said it was in self-defense, but the video that came out later of him shooting the man in the back from several yards away, and then planting evidence on his body, proved that was a lie. And that, coincidentally, took place just a few miles from where these nine men and women were executed last night.

At what point can we begin to accept that these aren’t just isolated events?

For what it’s worth, Graham isn’t the only one attempting to twist these horrible events into something that better serves their own purposes. His fellow presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, had the following to say today.

“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. It’s a time for deeper reflection beyond this horrible situation.”

With all due respect to Graham and Santorum, this isn’t part of a conspiracy to kill Christians or take our religious liberty. And it certainly isn’t just the act of one bad apple. No, this is what happens in modern America – where people are increasingly well-armed and at one another’s throats, where mental health services for the poor are almost nonexistent, where public education is being systematically dismantled, and where hope has given way to fear.

One last thing… I’d like to share two quotes from earlier today. The first comes from former Labor Secretary Robert Reich. The second comes from President Obama.

“The shootings at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina cause many of us to recoil in horror and despair. Is there no end to the hate? To the mass shootings? What can possibly be done? The right says the answer is to arm more people with more guns (even allowing them to carry concealed weapons in public places) while cutting spending on the mentally ill. Other rich nations do the opposite: They ban guns and help the mentally ill. Which approach works best? One way to find out is to compare firearm homicide rates in the U.S. with other rich nations. According to the Global Burden of Disease Study, rates of homicides from guns are 6.6 times larger in the US than in Portugal, the country with one of the highest rates in Western Europe. We don’t do much better when compared to lesser-developed nations; the U.S. has higher rates of homicides from guns than Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, and Kenya. So unless you believe Americans are inherently more violent than the citizens of these other countries, you have reason to believe that banning or at least regulating guns and helping the mentally ill are the only sane directions. And unless you’re totally defeatist and cynical about all this, and assume the American Rifle Association will forever determine our fates, you will join with others to seek such solutions. Two organizations I’d commend to you are the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, and Americans For Responsible Solutions… Don’t complain. Organize.” -Robert Reich

“I’ve had to make statements like this too many times. Communities have had to endure tragedies like this too many times. Once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun… We as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.” -Barack Obama

And for those of you who would say that the problem in America isn’t too many guns, but too few, I have good news for you. According to an add on the front page of today’s Charleston Post and Courier, there’s a big gun sale coming up!


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  1. Posted June 18, 2015 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t share it in the post itself, as it didn’t feel right to share a comedy video on a post about people who were murdered, but it’s hard for me not to think about his video of Jim Jeffries talking about America’s love affair with guns at times like this.

  2. Posted June 18, 2015 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    Also worth a look is this 2009 piece by Charlie Brooker about the role of the news media in perpetuating these kinds of events.

  3. Posted June 18, 2015 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 7.39.31 PM

  4. Posted June 18, 2015 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    That stand up bit is brilliant. Thanks for posting.

    On FB, a friend posted the news and talked about how school services are being cut. That needs to be included when we talk about mental health services. I work in a well funded district, but our middle school shares our social worker with the high school. We had two full time counselors and a part-time counselor but the part-time counselor got laid off. We share our psychologist with I don’t know how many other schools. And most IEPs give kids 1/2 hour of SSW services every two weeks (occasionally, it is once per week). While it won’t hurt, an hour a month doesn’t strike me as nearly enough.

  5. The Onion
    Posted June 18, 2015 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens

  6. LAKE
    Posted June 18, 2015 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    I realized how ignorant I am today. I always heard the South was more rascist than, I guess, the North? Everywhere else? It really wasn’t until I saw the Confederate flag flying on a state building that I woke up, but that doesn’t fix anything. Anyway, finding out this flag is waving on state property wakes me up to how deeply rascism is rooted. It’s worse than the thought that there are a percentage of deranged individuals (or groups) living in the South that are sometimes atrociously violent. It’s roots are wrapped around the whole system…and it’s saluted. …I’m just shocked the state government of SC could be so fucking rude.

  7. Sarah Boonstoppel
    Posted June 19, 2015 at 5:50 am | Permalink

    So this is an interesting take on the mental health angle…

  8. Chris Oposnow
    Posted June 19, 2015 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    I would be careful about making this about guns. Personally, I want stronger gun regulation if not eliminating them completely, but I’m worried that talking about that would cause static for people that feel differently. I feel it’s more important to focus what brought a person to the point were he felt compelled to take the lives of others. Whether the person did it with a gun or their bare hands is a secondary concern.

  9. Anonymous
    Posted June 19, 2015 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    It’s a matter of scale, Chris. The gun didn’t make him kill, but it enabled him to kill so many.

  10. Frosted Flakes
    Posted June 19, 2015 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    When someone is actively, and over a period of time, participating in hateful thoughts…Most likely, having hate crime fantasies……Resulting in an actual premeditated hate crime….I do not think increased gun control is a solution for that particular type of crime.

  11. Sam Abuelsamid
    Posted June 19, 2015 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    Mark, I just take issue with one thing in your post. Lindsay Graham, Rick Santorum and all the rest are NOT DUE ANY RESPECT. By perpetuating the whole war on Christianity meme they are are as culpable in these acts as those that sold the guns.

  12. Meta
    Posted June 19, 2015 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Jon Stewart’s comments from last night are also worth watching.

  13. Meta
    Posted June 19, 2015 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    From NBC News:

    Roof, 21, has told police that he “almost didn’t go through with it because everyone was so nice to him,” sources told NBC News.

    And yet he decided he had to “go through with his mission.”

    Read more:

  14. EOS
    Posted June 19, 2015 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Another mass shooting, another young male taking psychotropic pharmaceuticals. .

  15. Robert Davis
    Posted June 19, 2015 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    Oh please, come on people same old hoax stuff. This footage was shot 10 Years ago. The shooter is the cursing kid from Seinfeld. Please same old BS. All it is . Go to Ed Chiarini facebook.
    Turn off the BS news feeds. Geeezzzz.

  16. Anonymous
    Posted June 20, 2015 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Jesus, Robert. I don’t even know what to say to you except I hope you find the help that you need.

  17. Posted June 21, 2015 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    According to the infamous campaign: i am ypsi (Facebook timeline), “Now you can #StandWithCharleston at Water Street Commons.”

    P.S., Peter Larson is cool.

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