This week, a jury sentenced Dylann Roof to death for killing nine black churchgoers at a Charleston, South Carolina church in 2015.
The afternoon in which Roof’s verdict was announced, my phone buzzed with breaking news notifications from several media outlets. As I scrolled through the headlines, some outlets referred to him as “an avowed white supremacist” while others called him the “Charleston church shooter” or “killer.”
Let’s stop beating around the bush and call Dylann Roof what he is. Enough with the euphemisms lessening the reality of what he did. His horrific actions and ideologies prove that he is a terrorist.
A self-radicalized terrorist.
Before he carried out the attack, Roof explained his motives on a website he had created titled “The Last Rhodesian.”
“I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country,” he wrote. “We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.”
Photographs and posts on his website showed he supported white supremacist and neo-Nazi beliefs. He also wrote about his hopes of being able to ignite a race war, according to The New York Times.
During the closing argument of his case, Roof stated, “I felt like I had to do it, and I still feel like I had to do it,” according to The New York Times.
It’s clear that Roof held extremist beliefs and was willing to resort to violence in order to restore white power. If he was not white, Western mass media would have been more eager to call him a terrorist. If he were Middle Eastern, his faith would have immediately been called into question.
If he had a Muslim sounding name, news networks would have plastered “terrorist” on each breaking news chyron. Pundits would have engaged in endless commentary on jihad and how the Islamic faith poses a threat to the West and endangers innocent lives.
It seems like the terms “terrorist” and “radicalized” are only reserved for Muslim killers.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), domestic terrorism is defined as activities with these three characteristics:
- Involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;
- Appear intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination. or kidnapping; and
- Occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.
Roof used violent measures to intimidate and kill peaceful churchgoers because of their race. He held extremist and white supremacist views and terrorized them because they were black.
In the days following Roof’s terror attack, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said, “Hate crimes are the original domestic terrorism,” USA Today reported.
Terrorism has no religion. Terrorists are driven by ideologies. Roof’s extreme ideologies reflect those of a terrorist. Dylann Roof is a terrorist.