Late in the evening on Wednesday, June 17th, a man rose from a pew in the historically black Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, and opened fire with a .45 caliber pistol, killing nine worshipers, including pastor and State Senator Clementa Pickiney. The shooter has been photographed wearing patches representing the racist apartheid regimes in Southwest Africa, had a Confederate license plate on his vehicle. All signs points to this being a hate crime- not only is it the oldest black church in the South, it was a symbol of resistance against slavery, and a survivor reported that the shooter yelled ‘I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”
The shooter has been identified as Dylan Storm Roof, 21, who was taken into custody on the 18th. He received the gun as a present from his father. At the time of the killings, Roof has recently been released on bond for drug and trespassing charges.
This story is still developing, but it is the tragic and unnecessary massacre of innocent Americans by a disturbed individual with easy access to weapons. FOX News has already begun spinning this story as an “attack on Christianity” instead of using this opportunity for a productive discussion about race and gun proliferation in our nation- as they do every single time one of these horrible incidents occurs. The right-wing propaganda machine perpetrates subliminal racism twenty four hours a day, but refuse to take any responsibility for these terrible deaths. America has a race problem, and we need to recognize that. It’s an abhorrent discrepancy that this shooter was taken alive after killing nine, while Tamir Rice was shot on sight for playing in a public park.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.