What Is Racism: Through the Eyes of Dylann Roof

If you were to ask most people what racism is, most people would probably use the adjectives "prejudiced" or "hateful" somewhere in their definition.  Or, in light of the tragedy that happened at the historic AME Zion Church in Charleston this past week, you could probably open a dictionary and find a picture of Dylann Roof.

But what exactly is racism?

In trying to understand what was going through the head of Roof, reporters have discovered a "manifesto" written by this young man.  I find this manifesto interesting, because in it we discover exactly how the seeds of racism developed in Roof, and in seeing how it developed, I believe we can get a better picture of exactly what racism actually is.

I have selected portions of the letter for analysis.

Analyzing the Manifesto

Roof wrote:
"I was not raised in a racist home or environment...

The event that truly awakened me was the Trayvon Martin case. I kept hearing and seeing his name, and eventually I decided to look him up. I read the Wikipedia article and right away I was unable to understand what the big deal was. It was obvious that Zimmerman was in the right. But more importantly this prompted me to type in the words “black on White crime” into Google, and I have never been the same since that day. The first website I came to was the Council of Conservative Citizens. There were pages upon pages of these brutal black on White murders. I was in disbelief. At this moment I realized that something was very wrong. How could the news be blowing up the Trayvon Martin case while hundreds of these black on White murders got ignored?

From this point I researched deeper and found out what was happening in Europe. I saw that the same things were happening in England and France, and in all the other Western European countries. Again I found myself in disbelief... 
Niggers are stupid and violent. At the same time they have the capacity to be very slick... 
Segregation was not a bad thing. It was a defensive measure. Segregation did not exist to hold back negroes. It existed to protect us from them. And I mean that in multiple ways. Not only did it protect us from having to interact with them, and from being physically harmed by them, but it protected us from being brought down to their level..."
Roof's manifesto lends proof to the idea that racists aren't born, they are made.  Admittedly, he says he didn't grow up in a racist home or environment.  He wasn't born a racist.  His parents didn't raise him to irrationally hate people of another race.

Rather, we see that his racism was to him a sort of moral philosophy that he discovered after in-depth research and analysis.  He discovered "the truth" in a way that sounds reminiscent of the greatest thinkers and scientists of history.  After hearing all the fall out in the media over the Trayvon Martin trial, Roof became curious over the incident, and started digging around. And, the facts and figures of what he unearthed left him stunned "in disbelief."

Roof wasn't born a racist, rather he believes he saw the proverbial light, and experienced something he likened unto an awakening.  He believes he became enlightened.  In his mind, the facts spoke for themselves, and such required practical actions in light of the reality he discovered.

True Lies

From Roof's writings we discover that his racism wasn't an irrational hatred of black people and other races.  It wasn't an "a priori" knowledge.  It had nothing to do with his upbringing, and everything to do with the truth he discovered by means of in-depth research.  In Roof's mind, his hatred of black people is perfectly rational, and grounded in facts and figures, and supported and confirmed by his own real world personal experiences and observations.

If asked, I believe none of us would admit to hating blacks or any other race of people simply because of who they are.  Rather, like Roof, we would admit that our bias towards others is based on certain facts and observations we have made over the years.

Racism is a belief system that is grounded in what we perceive to be "truth" of what we've extrapolated about other races over the years.  It is the belief that there are certain truths that exist about other races and nationalities, and such truths justify us treating other people groups differently based on the bias we've formed.

Sometimes this bias is positive.  "Italians from New York know what great pizza is!" or "Germans are great engineers, and make the best cars!"   Other times this bias is negative.  "Black people are lazy and have a bad work ethic!"  or "All Arabs are dirty and potential terrorists!"  

BMW and Volkswagen are able to sell a lot of cars as a result of marketing that plays off the positive bias that Americans have towards German made cars.  They are treated as a luxury, and the finest automobiles on the road. Whereas a black family from Georgia might struggle in marketing an Italian restaurant, no matter how "authentic" their pizza is.  One might suggest that they would find more success in opening a soul-food restaurant instead.

But in spite of all these perceptions, we know these things to ultimately be lies.

BMW and Volkswagen make some pretty good cars.  But we also know they make some bad ones.  Likewise, there are Italians from New York who make great pizza, but there are others who should stay very far away from a kitchen.  But regardless of the truth of the matter over such things, the perception still exists, and the perception of the truth is the story that is sold time and time again.  And it is in such stories that racism finds a place to lodge in our hearts.

A Poisoned Pill and the Cure

At the end of the day, racism is built upon a lie masquerading as the truth.  And all lies have their origins in the Devil, whom Jesus calls "The Father of All Lies."  (John 8:44) 

Therefore, if racism has its origins in the demonic, then it is fundamentally a spiritual problem.  And as such, no amount of talking about racism or attempting to craft legislation will ever cure man of the poisoned pill he has taken, and ingested into the depths of his soul.  The only cure can be found in the truth of the Gospel message, wherein the lies of the Devil are crucified upon the cross of Jesus Christ, and exposed to all of the world for what they are.  And it is only in the cross that our hope can hang, for it was on the cross that Jesus reconciled all the races of the world together.

I only wish Dylann Roof would have seen this truth earlier, instead of all the "truth" he found on Google.

It is reported that Roof has said that he almost did not go through with his massacre, because of how nice they were.  For in the hour leading up to the killing, he sat there and listened to these people pray and study the Bible together. And I earnestly believe in that hour he got a heavenly taste of how good the Lord is at AME Zion Church in Charleston.  He almost couldn't imagine killing them as a result.  He became a partaker of heavenly manna.  And like the Hebrews in the wilderness, he simply did not know what it was he was experiencing.

Roof did not know it, but the cross of Jesus Christ was at work in his heart.  God was appealing to him in that hour not to go through with the killing that was in his heart.  The truth of the Gospel was wrestling with the "truth" that was in his heart.  It was attempting to dig out the poisoned root so deeply at lodge within his heart.

Even in this hour, the hope found in the Gospel continues to work in Dylann Roof, as the families of the victims have announced their decision to forgive this young man.  They are forgiving Roof even as Jesus forgave those who crucified Him in their ignorance, the same ignorance that resulted in the death of 9 black men and women in Charleston this past week.

I pray the full work of the cross in felt in the heart of Dylann Roof.  It's his only hope.  And it is our only hope.

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