I don’t think Dylann Storm Roof, reportedly the confessed killer of nine black worshipers at Emanuel A.M.E. Church, believed he was going to provoke an actual race war.
His highest ambition, I suspect, was simply to push blacks and whites further apart.
We shouldn’t give him what he wants. Here’s how we can deny him.
If you are black: If you are like the African Americans I spoke with in Charleston this week, you are angry. Remember your history. We’ve been here before, and we’ve survived. From lynchings to church bombings to the millions of accumulated wrongs that never made headlines or history books, our ancestors responded with strength, with resilience, with dignity and respect for their fellow man. They bear witness to the best that humanity can be. Do no violence to that magnificent legacy.
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If you are white: You can help. Reach across color lines. You won’t be rejected. It almost never fails that when we get to know each other’s families and stories, we always discover what we should have already known: our hopes, fears and flaws are the same. If you are older, and feel uncertain, look to your children and grandchildren. They’re already showing us how it’s done.
If you are liberal: You always suspected a Dylann Roof would show up. With right-wingers portraying blacks as crime-prone, welfare-loving “takers” who are weighing America down, it figures some sicko would go to extremes in addressing the “problem.” Still, “I told you so” does not help the victims’ families. Don’t be quick to judge small-government conservatives as racists. A political label can’t tell you what’s in a person’s heart.
If you are conservative: You want, understandably, to write Roof off as a lone psycho, a murderous freak with a terrible haircut. You don’t wear white supremacist patches on your jackets, or toss around racial epithets, and you certainly don’t condone violence against anyone. But Roof’s assertion that blacks are taking over the country isn’t new – or liberal. You can help by abandoning that language, that imagery. Black or white, we’re all Americans.
Ultimately, I think Roof misjudged us all. He underestimated our impulse to resist terrorists, foreign or domestic. He underestimated our love of freedom, faith, and our families.
And in that, he truly is a loner.
The writer Zora Neale Hurston once said love “makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.”
All over Charleston, I kept seeing black people and white people hugging. Not polite, nice-to-see-you hugs. I mean hold-on-for-dear-life, you’re-all-I’ve-got hugging.
We’re not going to give you what you want.
Eric: 704-358-5145; firstname.lastname@example.org. @Ericfraz on Twitter.