In June 2015, my alter ego caught wind of the Charleston Massacre through a Facebook message. One of my friends said how there were police cars surrounding the old Emanuel A.M.E. Church that evening. I immediately knew something horrible happened, most likely a shooting – a fatal shooting.
Part of me hoped that it wasn’t another case of black folks acting gun crazy. I was relieved to later found it that the suspect was a white guy. But my heart plunged to discover that the victims were all black. I would’ve felt just as bad if the victims were of any other color. But hearing how it was a mass shooting of black churchgoers by one white guy opened up historic wounds.
I won’t go into much detail over the details. I’m confident you all know what went down that tragic night. So, I’ll fast forward to the present day when the court ruled that the man responsible is to be sentenced to death.
And so, here’s where I start contemplating the whole issue of Dylann Roof’s crime, his penalty and all things inside and out.
Today is Martin Luther King Day, a day where that one line from all of Dr. King’s numerous speeches is recited, broadcast, misinterpreted and misused ad nauseum where we’re told that he wished for a more or less colorblind society. But anyone who has read or heard more than just that ‘color of skin, content of character’ line learned that he was about way more. King was a revolutionary. A freedom fighter. He knew racism was a major problem in America at that time, and I’m sure he would feel no different if he were alive today.
Dr. King would observe the tragedy in Charleston and attest it as the extremism that racism brings. Uncontrolled white racial hatred is a lethal weapon whether it’s in the hands of people in white sheets, Confederate flag wavers suits with briefcases. It’s everywhere. It’s a matrix of oppression which kept unchecked will destroy lives year after year.
The Charleston Massacre took and ruined lives, but the violent racist mindset behind it has seriously messed up the man responsible. No, I’m not asking for sympathy, forgiveness or even mercy for Dylann Roof. After all, why should we go easy on him when he has taken nine lives without remorse? But I still have mixed feelings toward him getting the death penalty.
On one hand, he more than deserves it. An eye for an eye. But then again, how can a society teach that death is wrong when it kills people as punishment? Sending Roof to die seems too easy, if not costly.
I prefer that he suffers for the rest of his life somehow. I want him to wish he was dead. I desire him to be broken to the point where he’s the one pleading for forgiveness from the families he hurt.
Life or death, Roof is screwed either way. And at this point, hearing about his death sentence is poetic justice. He killed black folks, and the system that protects white folks will kill him, if it still plans on going through with it. Is it a step in the right direction towards healing? Maybe. Maybe not. But the shooting certainly didn’t quell the beast of white racial hatred. Be prepared for more victims to be devoured.