EDITORIAL COMMENT – Roof: The problem with Rhodesia

Dylann Roof

Dylann Roof

There was another mass killing in the United States of America on Wednesday. An unfazed 21-year old white supremacist Dylann Roof shot in cold blood nine black worshippers in a church in Charleston, South Carolina.

The heinous attack at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church was an attack on race, faith and all the freedoms enshrined in the United States of America’s Constitution.

Emanuel AME Church is the first and biggest black church in the southern states and dates back to the days of slavery in the early 1800s.

It is rightly called the “Freedom House” because the walls of this great church, which were also destroyed many times by slave owners, have housed black people fighting against a system of segregation, racism and oppression.

Thousands of civil rights campaigners have passed through the historic church, with some being killed there like the nine killed this week.

Dr Martin Luther King Jr passed through the church in the sixties.

According to his son, Martin Luther King III, Dr King’s mother, Alberta Christine Williams King was assassinated in that church in 1974, six years after his assassination.

The latest incident lays bare the contestations within the US history, race relations in particular.

Landing the presidency does not mean that African-Americans’ struggles against an unjust system are over.

US president Barack Obama knows full well that what happened to Trayvvon Martin and these nine martyrs could also have happened to him, because Roof’s objective was to kill all black people.

This incident should make the Obama administration rethink its approach to Zimbabwe whose ‘crime’ in the eyes of the US is seeking to address colonial injustices.

Whereas the past few years have seen a growing number of African-American men dying under the hands of a brutal and racist police force, forcing people to demonstrate endlessly and coming up with a slogan: “black lives matter”, Wednesday’s shooting of the nine worshippers is different from the rest, and it should not be treated as business as usual when psychological problems and the proliferation of guns are used as excuses for addressing a cancerous problem: home grown terrorism on US soil.

This is why Martin Luther King III’s point of departure on how this incident should be defined matters.

He said on CNN that Roof’s murderous act was terrorism, pure and simple.

We are also happy that some Americans including its mainstream media are also acknowledging that this was a terrorist act on home soil. If attacks on Christian worshippers by Islamist militants like Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda and/or isis are termed terrorist acts, why should the Charleston shooting be dismissed as a “hate crime”?

What is the difference between Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram leader’s tirades and Dylann Roof’s when he told the worshippers that he wanted to kill black people because they were raping their women and wanted to take over the whole word?

Why should a desire to ignite “a civil war” be termed a hate crime and mental disorder?

According to his roommate, Roof is said to have been “planning something like that for six months.”

If dozens other young people from the US, Europe and Australia are going to Iraq and Syria to join isis, why should a young white supremacist like Roof not lead a terrorist organisation, even if it might be a single cell?

What we have also found interesting in the case is the information that the authorities decide to release and not avail.

Why, for example was it important for them to publish Roof’s ominous Facebook profile picture where he is wearing a jacket with old patches of Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa’s flags? Are Roof’s roots 100 percent American? Who is he and what is his family background like?

Was Roof under FBI spotlight considering his supremacist views and actions? His friend is reported as having said, “He (Roof) said he wanted segregation between whites and blacks. I said, ‘That’s not the way it should be.’ But he kept talking about it.”

Since Roof’s act encapsulates the cross-Atlantic history on slavery and colonialism, a burden that the black person has been fighting ever since, we wish to underline to President Obama that injustice is injustice, and it must be fought at all cost. Those that perpetrate it must be reoriented.

When countries like Zimbabwe address those injustices, the United States thinks that it is anti-white, thus protecting perpetrators of injustice. When black people continue to be killed by racists, it’s time to see that this is injustice, because “black lives matter” as well.

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