Why is it so hard to admit that it’s racism?

As the dust settles from Wednesday night’s horrific attack on the Emanuel Church in Charleston, some of America’s keenest thought leaders are furrowing their brows in wonderment over what could have possessed 21 year old Dylann Storm Roof to commit such violence upon 9 other human beings. So far, all we have to go on as far as motive is that this young white guy:

  • attacked a historically significant black church
  • attacked it near the anniversary of a failed 1822 slave uprising involving one of the founders of that church
  • shot 9 black people
  • shot them while saying that he had to do it because “you are raping our women and taking over the country”
  • likes to wear clothing that displays the flags of oppressive white supremacist regimes from Africa’s colonial history
  • likes to flash Confederate symbols on his car
  • has a history of using racist rhetoric
  • has a history of using really racist rhetoric
  • has a history of using violent racist rhetoric
  • told police, when they arrested him for murdering 9 black people inside a predominantly black church, that he wanted “to start a race war”

So it’s really anybody’s guess why he did what he did.

It’s sure unclear to South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who wrote on her Facebook page that “we’ll never understand what motivates anyone to enter one of our places of worship and take the life of another.” It’s also not clear to South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who finally stopped trying to understand and just chalked it up to Roof being “whacked out”:

But despite the fact that the Justice Department has labeled the attack a “hate crime,” Graham was not willing to go that far. “There are real people who are organized out there to kill people in religion and based on race, this guy’s just whacked out,” he said. “But it’s 2015. There are people out there looking for Christians to kill them.”

ABOVE: Lindsey Graham, desperately trying to think of a way to connect Dylann Roof to, like, Iran, or something
ABOVE: Lindsey Graham, desperately trying to think of a way to connect Dylann Roof to, like, Iran, or something
Expanding on Graham’s strange non-sequitur into talking about anti-Christian, rather than anti-black, violence, there was Elizabeth Hasselbeck on Fox’s morning show, Peering into the Abyss of Mankind’s Eventual Doom Fox & Friends:

“If we’re not safe in our own churches, then where are we safe?” Pop quiz: Was the preceding sentence uttered by, a. One of the grieving congregants at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina? Or b. Elizabeth Hasselbeck of Fox and Friends, making the Charleston shooting into “an attack on faith” rather than a hate crime against a black church?

Congratulations! You have correctly guessed Elizabeth Hasselbeck. You are awarded nothing, and as a terrible anti-bonus, here’s her co-host Steve Doocy:

[E]xtraordinarily, they called it a hate crime, and some look at it as well, because it was a white guy, apparently, and a black church, but you made a great point just a moment ago about the hostility toward Christians — and it was a church — so maybe that’s what they’re talking about. They haven’t explained it to us.

Yes. Apparently a white guy.

Well, I mean, he could be wearing a mask?

Rick Santorum, ever eager to get another taste of his own shoe, knows who the real victims are: himself, really, and people like him:

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Thursday called the tragic church shooting in Charleston, S.C. — which left nine people dead — a “crime of hate” and connected the event to a broader “assault on our religious liberty.”

“You just can’t think that things like this can happen in America. It’s obviously a crime of hate. Again, we don’t know the rationale, but what other rationale could there be? You’re sort of lost that somebody could walk into a Bible study in a church and indiscriminately kill people,” Santorum told radio host Joe Piscopo Thursday on AM 970, a New York radio station. “It’s something that, again, you think we’re beyond that in America and it’s sad to see.”

Huh, doesn’t seem to be anything about blah people in there.

“Well, you know, the blah people, I don’t have any issues with them per se, but they’re not really victimized  like us conservative Christians”
E.W. Jackson, who broke new societal ground for one-dimensional caricatures by becoming the Republican nominee for Lt. Governor of Virginia in 2013 and then winning almost 45% of the vote in the general election, is also worried about all this violence against blacks Christians here in America. He won’t call what Roof did a hate crime, at least not yet, but he is pretty sick of liberals hate criming him all the damn time:

JEB, to his credit, is at least open to the possibility that race might have partially fueled Roof’s mindset, but obviously he’s not prepared to say for sure, I mean it’s still way to early to tell:

When asked about whether he thought the attack was racially motivated, Bush told a Huffington Post reporter, “It was a horrific act and I don’t know what the background of it is, but it was an act of hatred.”

When pressed again about whether race motivated the attacks, Bush said, “I don’t know. Looks like to me it was, but we’ll find out all the information. It’s clear it was an act of raw hatred, for sure. Nine people lost their lives, and they were African-American. You can judge what it is.”

The question came after a speech Bush made at a Faith and Freedom Coalition summit in Washington.

“I don’t know what was on the mind or the heart of the man who committed these atrocious crimes,” Bush said in his remarks. “But I do know what was in the heart of the victims.”

I’ve turned the snark up to 11 here, so let’s tone it back down: this attack was about racism. A violently racist white guy committed an act of violence against a group of black people, something that has happened so many times in the history of this country that there’s no logical explanation for there being so much puzzlement from so many white folks when it happens again. I’m not expecting the people I highlighted above to call what Roof did “terrorism,” even though it was; I understand that may be too far for them to go. But why is it so hard to just say, “yeah, this dude was racist and racism is why he killed those people”? No hemming and hawing or “we need all the facts” or “this is what this attack is really about,” just a simple “hey, racism is still out there, sometimes it leads to horrible things like this, and we all need to keep working together to fight it.” Wouldn’t that be a whole lot easier and better than what these people are saying right now? It doesn’t taint any Republican politician or right-wing media figure to allow that this despicable kid from South Carolina is a freaking racist, so why go through all these stupid verbal and logical contortions to avoid saying it?

Maybe it’s because the same people who are making themselves look silly trying to obfuscate Dylann Storm Roof’s motives are heavily vested in churning out bogus narratives like The Wall Street Journal‘s somebody-get-me-a-shovel “institutional racism is over” op-ed from this very morning’s paper. For people who have political and financial interest in spinning the yarn that racism is dead and buried, they can’t just acknowledge that Dylann Roof’s actions were motivated by racism, because racism is learned, not genetically hardwired. That means that if Dylann Roof is racist, and not just your garden variety racist but somebody so animated by racial hatred that he was compelled to kill nine people because of it, then he must have learned that racism from somewhere. And to acknowledge that he learned that racism from somewhere is to acknowledge that racism is still out there, maybe just casually, or maybe more actively. Maybe it’s out there on our college campuses, or on our radio and TV airwaves, or maybe it’s flying above some of our state capitols. But there’s some segment of America that can’t allow that basic fact of life to be true. They can’t admit that Dylann Roof is racist because they can’t admit — literally can’t admit, not without wrecking their own livelihoods — that “racism” itself still exists.

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