I am deeply angered that Dylan Roof’s shooting rampage in Charleston has not caused an outcry against hate groups. Dylan Roof is a white supremacist who was heavily influenced by hate group ideologies and rhetoric, but instead of cracking down on hate groups, politicians, commentators, and even movie studios and retailers have attacked a soft target instead: the Confederate flag, a controversial symbol only remotely involved in Roof’s vile act due to how he posed for a photo with a Confederate flag in one hand and his automatic pistol in the other. The time and effort being spent to suppress this controversial symbol is diverting attention and debate away from hate groups, whose very existence in this country is 10 times more vile than all the various incarnations of the Confederate flag put together.
Hate groups are a clear and present danger
“I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go,” Roof said during his shooting rampage. His racist hate speak stemmed from his study of The Northwest Front, a hate group known for participating in the murder of five anti-Ku Klux Klan demonstrators in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1979. The hate speak espoused by the Northwest Front led Roof to study the rhetoric of other hate groups, which reinforced his own racist views to the point he decided to act upon the hate-filled manifestos he read (and also wrote for his own website).
But while hundreds mourn Roof’s victims, some Klan chapters are hailing him as a hero. One chapter greets callers with a prerecorded message which says in part: “We in the Loyal White Knights of the KKK would like to say hail victory to Dylan S. Roof who decided to do what the Bible told him. An eye for an eye. A tooth for a tooth. They [African-Americans] have spilled our blood too long. It’s about time someone spilled theirs.”
Robert Jones, the head of the KKK’s Royal White Knights, boldly told The Daily Beast that he supported Roof’s actions, but that he “shot the wrong people” (according to Jones, Roof should have shot African-American drug dealers instead). Opinions like Jones’ only stoke the fires of racial hatred, and holding up Roof as an example for other racist fanatics to follow is dangerous. For all we know, at this very moment another racist is checking his weapons and seeking a place to commit the mass murder of African-Americans, his heart beating with a fierce desire to emulate Roof’s actions. Hate groups are a clear and present danger for us all because they are a beacon for fanatics.
First Amendment wasn’t meant to shield hate
“Freedom of speech” is a valuable thing in a democracy, but it should not be used as an excuse to shield hate-filled rhetoric such as “if it ain’t white, it ain’t right.” America is supposed to be a land of the free, not a dystopian world where hate can flourish under the protection of the law. We had enough of that in this country during the grim days of slavery and segregation. The First Amendment was not meant to be a shield for hate; it was meant to provide a voice for freedom.
If America wants to avenge the Charleston massacre, we must not only convict Roof and sentence him to death, we also must ban hate groups like the KKK, the Neo-Nazis, and The Northwest Front for good. Their hate-filled teachings and opinions are helping fuel racial violence in this country far more than any display of the Confederate flag could.
Richard Held is a freelance writer and editor. He resides in the Twin Cities.
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