As the following abbreviated list indicates, Dylann Roof is not the first hateful person to murder or attempt to murder innocent people in a house of worship.
- Sunday, September 15, 1963/ Birmingham, Alabama/ Four children were killed in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church.
- Wednesday, June 17, 2015/Charleston, South Carolina/ Nine people were murdered, and one person was wounded, inside the Emmanuel African Methodist episcopal (AME) Church.
- Wednesday, January 11, 2012/Rutherford, New Jersey/ A Rabbi sustained serious burns as the result of the firebombing of a Jewish synagogue.
- Tuesday, December 9, 2014/Brooklyn, New York/A Jewish student died as the result of fatal stab wounds he received to the head while in a Brooklyn synagogue.
- August 5, 2012/ Oak Creek, Wisconsin / Six people were murdered inside a Sikh temple. [i]
Against the background of the preceding information, why is the nation so unnerved by the nine murders that took place in Emmanuel AME Church? Perhaps it is the age of the shooter and the cold and calculated way he carried out his dastardly deed. Dylann Roof entered the church for the sole purpose of committing murder. Our sensibilities are disturbed because we know that before carrying out his wicked plan, Roof pretended to engage in worship with the welcoming people he subsequently murdered. Roofs actions are almost unfathomable.
Some are unnerved because there is no way for them to deny the fact that Roof murdered the churchgoers simply because of their race/ethnicity. He confessed that he wanted to kill black people. That confession takes away the opportunity to blame the victims for their own deaths. It also makes it difficult not to hold Roof responsible for his actions (although Rick Perry seems to have tried by describing the massacre as an accident).
Dylann Roof’s actions and motives speak to the larger issues of racism and the wide-spread use of violence that permeates every strata of society. Therefore, efforts should focus on developing and implementing strategies that systematically address the major problems that lead to violent behavior.
Parents and religious leaders must do their part to curb violence by emphasizing the brotherhood of all humankind and the value of tolerance. Likewise, politicians should try inspiring unity instead of sowing seeds that grow hatred and distrust. Also, there needs to be a national movement that seeks to revive a sense of shared goals and a commitment to building a unified United States.
The Charleston, South Carolina mass killing of nine innocent people in a church prompts us to look for meaningful ways to reduce physical violence.
The preceding list does not include the documented lengthy attacks against African American Churches. Fortunately, in most of those incidents lives were not taken, but the loss of property, the subject many contemporary cable news anchors seem to relish discussing rather than the tragic and violent loss of life that precipitated the destruction of property, was substantial.