A black-and-white issue: Just pure evil

A Charleston resident takes a moment to pay his respects Thursday at the corner of Calhoun and Elizabeth streets.

Of course this is about race.

The murder of nine people at Emanuel AME Church was not terrorism or some sort of perverted assault on religious freedom.

It was hate.

None of the people in that Bible study class at Mother Emanuel had ever done anything to their murderer. They were not responsible for what was in his heart, for his lot in life.

How could he sit in that church and listen to people innocently discuss Scripture, then kill them in cold blood — and think he is the good guy?

It was evil. It was hate.

It was racism.

Of course, some people want to say this was just the work of an unstable person, someone who was mentally ill.

If he is ill, and he probably is, you can bet part of what set him off was hearing hate speech disguised as political discourse for years. It has escalated dramatically since a black man won the White House. That cannot be denied by any reasonable person. Every day you can hear these people on talk radio whining about taking back their country.

Take it back from whom exactly? This country belonged to the people sitting in that church as much as anyone long before the murderous punk who did this was born and spoon-fed bigoted beliefs. He wasn’t old enough to develop such hardened opinions on his own — he picked them up in his environment. It was learned behavior.

It is racism, pure and simple.

And trying to dismiss that, or make excuses for it, does nothing but exacerbate the problem.

The impulse to deny is strong.

When photos of the suspect were first released, people on social media actually speculated that he was a black guy, a Muslim. Yeah, a black Muslim with a Dutchboy haircut, an apartheid-era South Africa flag on his shirt and a Confederate States of America license plate on his car.

Just like those 9/11 terrorists.

Is that stereotyping? You bet, just like assuming shooting victim Trayvon Martin was a thug because he wore a hoodie.

The hypocrisy of such speculation is almost as bad as hating someone because of the color of their skin. But it still happens.

Let’s be clear: It is wrong to assume that just because someone flies a Confederate flag, they are racist, but it is just as wrong to assume that anyone wearing a hoodie is a criminal.

But if you have a CSA tag on your car, walk into a black church and kill nine people, yes, that might qualify as racist in most people’s opinion.

Now no one is going so far as to defend suspect Dylann Roof — not even the trolls on the Internet comment pages. But they want to make excuses because Roof is the archetype of the dangerous right-wing white boy that many of these folks claim does not exist.

So they say it is a conspiracy by the mainstream media and deny, deny, deny that they harbor any prejudice in their hearts.

Making excuses for this crime puts the lie to those ardent denials.

People who lived through the civil rights era knew it would take time for old attitudes to fade.

They figured it would take generations and, to an extent, they have been proven right. No one is born racist, and just as many white people as African-Americans are appalled by this tragedy. Most kids today are wonderfully color-blind, at least those who don’t have parents force-feeding them backward attitudes left over from the days of Jim Crow.

Ultimately, racism comes from the need to have some sense — however false — of superiority over someone else. Clearly, the killer here is not superior to anyone.

The people who died at Emanuel AME were parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, librarians, public servants, pastors — hard-working middle-class Americans.

If any peckerwood thought he was better than those fine people, well, perhaps he was mentally ill.

But that doesn’t mean this wasn’t about race.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com