He is also a terrorist.
As reluctant as the mainstream media is to use this term for him, the 21-year-old from Lexington, South Carolina – who allegedly shot and killed nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a historic black church in Charleston – is a terrorist.
Roof allegedly shot people with the intention of killing them. It wasn’t just a warning. He knew what he was doing. On top of that, it wasn’t a random attack. His targets were carefully chosen. He had a plan, an agenda – to spread fear, send a message and he did.
And this is exactly what a terrorist does.
However, as has been the case with white suspects of mass shootings – be it James Holmes, who killed more than 10 people in July 2012 in Aurora, Colorado, or Adam Lanza, who murdered 20 children and seven adults and killed himself in Connecticut in December that year – Roof is not being accused of terrorism. He is not even being called a “possible terrorist.”
White Terrorist Bingo pic.twitter.com/hcomYIu0jh— solid gold (@blowticious) June 18, 2015
In fact, the attempt to humanize Roof has already started. There is a lengthy article that talks about how he “had difficulties at school” and was “drawn” to white supremacy. Another highlights how his troubled teenage years caused him to drop out of school.
Had he belonged to a different race or ethnicity – or god forbid, if he were a Muslim from the Asian sub-continent – the media coverage of the Charleston tragedy would’ve been really different.
Just this year, we saw how after the Chapel shooting in February, Craig Stephen Hicks, a religion-hating atheist and a gun enthusiast, was not branded a terrorist for killing three unarmed Muslim students. In the following month, Richard White, a 63-year-old former Army serviceman who entered New Orleans’ airport with explosives and a machete and tried to attack TSA officers, wasn’t called a terrorist.
Then again in May, Robert R. Doggart , a white ordained Christian minister in the Christian National Church – who admitted plotting a violent attack on Islamberg, a Muslim area in the state of New York and destroy a mosque – was not labeled a terrorist.
In the West, thanks to the twisted stereotypes perpetuated by news channels and movies, it’s only non-white people, preferably Muslims, who are portrayed as violent religious fanatics bombing other communities and massacring people. It’s a shameless double-standard that media has unremorsefully been following for years now.
Fortunately, there are some voices of reason.
Addressing the Charleston shooting, The Daily Show host Jon Stewart said what other news organizations were (and are) clearly reluctant to say. He called it a terrorist attack, adding pretending otherwise would just be wrong.
And he is right.
What Dylann Roof has been accused of is not a hate crime, it is terrorism. And he should be called what people who are accused of committing acts of terrorism are called – a terrorist or a possible terrorist suspect.