On the night of June 17, 2015, a 21-year-old white man named Dylann Roof entered the Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolina, and sat in on a Bible study session for about an hour before opening fire on the other participants, all of whom were black. Prior to the attack, Roof had expressed racist views on a personal website and to friends, allegedly stating that he hoped to incite a “race war.”
The nine victims killed in the shooting were Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Myra Thompson, and Clementa C. Pinckney, the senior church pastor and a South Carolina state senator. Five people survived the shooting.
Let me be up front, I don’t support the death penalty for anyone. No matter how vile someone is, it is not up to human authority to kill someone except in active defense of self or others (i.e. while someone is actively trying to kill others). Still, I find it troubling that Roof and many White mass shooters — who have demonstrated ability and willingness to kill — get captured alive, when many unarmed black men get killed by police. I’m not wishing Roof had been killed, but do wonder why it seems like police aren’t afraid of people who’ve killed but are afraid enough of black people to shoot them without being fired on.
This incident also shows that deep abiding hatred on the simple basis of skin color is still very much with us.