First, I'd like to offer my condolences to the survivors, friends, and family members of the nine people killed in Wednesday night's shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC. Keeping you in my thoughts at this time.
Like most of you, the shootings in Charleston, SC has been a punch in the gut. While most people appear to have gotten that the shooter Dylann Storm Roof was motivated by racial hatred when he killed those nine people I'm troubled (to put it mildly) by those who either want to write Roof's actions of as a sign of mental illness or even worse those trying to claim this the massacre was an attack on religious liberty and Christianity in particular.
Never mind that Roof reportedly told the people at Emanuel AME that "they had to go" because they were "raping our women and taking over our country." There are some people that want to claim that it is unknown why this happened (despite what Roof reportedly said). To claim this as a sign of mental illness is an injustice to those people who may either actually deal with mental illness themselves as well as those that care about them. In addition, the most known photo of Dylann Storm Roof shows him wearing patches on a military style flight/bomber jacket; patches of the flags of white ruled Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe) and apartheid era South Africa. Add to that a friend's claim the Roof apparently had been planning this attack for six months and hoped to start a civil war and blaming it on mental illness(while comforting to some confused white people who may not want to face the dark side of white privilege) falls apart.
As for the claims (mainly on Fox News but some GOP Presidential candidates have stated it as well [hint, Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham]) that the attack was a war on religious liberty and an attack on Christians, the only thing this act of domestic terrorism has in common with this claim was it happened in a church. Roof waited 45 minutes in the church before acting and didn't say anything about religion when he unloaded his weapon. That the shooter reportedly brought up race, not jus tto his victims but to several of his friends in the time leading up to this, should prove this claim to be built on a foundation of sand. However, those taking this road only marginally care about the Emanuel AME victims at best and are really trying to spin what this asshat did to make white conservative christians appear to be by proxy victims.
We must not let them do this. The shootings on Wednesday night should only be debated on whether they are either a hate crime, an act of domestic terrorism, or both. They weren't about attacking religion and any talk otherwise should be quickly and unapologetically quashed.
In the days to come we will likely learn more about Roof's motivations (though I have a feeling we'll learn subtle details of what we already know). For now, we should look at this horrific event and talk about it for what it is, not what certain people with theocratic or political machinations want it to be.