9 Dead In Charleston: What’s Hate Got To Do With It?
June 18, 2015 (Mimesis Law) — It is a horrible tragedy, nine human beings murdered in a church in Charleston. The suspect has been caught and the picture of him with patches of apartheid regimes makes something very clear: the people killed are dead.
Where is the outrage? Isn’t this a hate crime? Isn’t he a terrorist? Shouldn’t we be treating this as a hateful terrorist crime?
To what end? Shaun King at the Daily Kos is leading the charge:
Dylann Roof, who is now the primary suspect in the Charleston, South Carolina massacre of 9 women and men in the historic Emmanuel AME Church is a terrorist. Call it domestic terrorism if you must, but this man is a terrorist and what he did, pure and simple, was terrorism.
Not that I’m unimpressed by his use of “pure and simple” to obviate any need for, say, a definitional basis for the assertion, but what does it accomplish to pronounce this guy a terrorist?
Dylann Roof was a racist and his actions were driven by his racism. On his jacket, in the picture above, are patches from the racist regimes of apartheid South Africa and colonial Rhodesia. This means he had a philosophy, a worldview, which celebrated the brute force and violence used against Africans on the continent.
Apparently, where there is some evidence upon which to base a characterization, “pure and simple” gets defenestrated in favor of old-fashioned proof. So he’s a terrorist and a racist. Check.
Don’t call this the act of a madman. It is an insult to those battling mental illness and it is also a degree of deference you never saw given to men like Osama Bin Laden. This is a well planned, well conceived attack. He didn’t stumble upon this church in some type of manic accident. It was strategic.
Yeah, well, mental illness has had a few bad apples, from taking orders from dogs to just plain old batshit crazy. It’s really not an insult to anybody, as those concerned with mental illness tend to be a bit less simplistic than to pigeonhole all mentally ill people as clones of Sylvia Plath.
But we get the point, that Roof is a racist, terrorist, who might be crazy but that is only an explanation for insane conduct when it’s un-strategic and his coat has no patches on it.
Are we saying that terrorists can’t be white? Are we saying that terrorists can’t be American?
Must they be brown? Must be Muslims?
Of course not. This is terrorism. Calling it anything less is an insult to the victims of this massacre.
Ah, yes. The victims of this massacre. It seems as if they were forgotten in this mad rush to characterize the guy who killed them. It’s good that they got a mention, and now they’re going to get a bit more concern.
You see, these nine human beings who were brutally murdered are just as dead, whether killed by a racist, a terrorist, a madman or anyone else. They are dead. Their deaths are a tragedy, no matter what tail you choose to pin on this donkey.
The law enforcement resources put into finding the perpetrator of this mass murder are not limited by the name put on the crime, though some of us prefer to use harder definitions than “pure and simple.” The manhunt should be huge, the resources unlimited, because a mass murder demands such a response, regardless of who was the shooter or what was going through his head.
And when he’s caught, does it matter if he gets enhanced penalties because of racist motives, or terroristic goals? How many death penalties can be imposed? After the first, it’s not really a meaningful deterrent.
We give names to horrible crimes because it somehow makes us feel better, an application of old fashioned gestalt to the Age of Emotion. But it doesn’t change a thing for the victims. They won’t be insulted if we fail to use every derogative characterization in the book. You see, they’re dead, and no pigeonhole is going to change that.
None of this has anything to do with the existence of racism, both systemic and individual, or the reality of being black and under siege in America. These problems are real, and no more or less real regardless of this tragedy. This doesn’t begin or end with this tragedy, and the name attached to it doesn’t provide a cure.
It’s understandable that social media exploded this morning with raw anger and hatred, expressed by resort to our new favorite categories of double-heinous crimes. But these are the time that demand particular circumspection, much as we name a new law after every dead child because we feel as if our post hoc efforts somehow overcome our inability to protect all we hold sacred.
But there was a time when the FBI spied on many of these groups we now call “terrorists,” and it didn’t please us nearly as much as some might think. From the Black Panthers to SDS to eco-terrorists, the overreach was a nightmare, according to which groups you liked over others.
Do we return to those days of internal spying, when agents were provocateurs, when no organization was safe from law enforcement’s prying eyes? Some will distinguish the problem by noting that white supremacists, for example, deserve to be infiltrated by the FBI, because they’re hate groups and terrorists.
But once we embrace the notion of law enforcement going back to its spying ways, it won’t just be the groups you despise, but all groups that seek to change society. We know this because we have history, and it’s proven ugly and counterproductive.
So if it makes you feel better to call Roof “obsequious, blue and suck eggs“, do whatever you have to do, pure and simple. But understand that it serves no purpose other than to assuage your feelings of horror about this tragedy. And do not confuse its palliative purpose with a call to reinstitute the infiltration of law enforcement into places in American society where history has taught us it should never be. We have one tragedy to deal with. Let’s not make it more.