The Charleston Nine – Six Years Later

On June 26th, 2015, President Barack Obama sang Amazing Grace to church filled of mourners and to a nation hurting from one of the most despicable acts of terrorism in recent history. Just nine days before, Dylann Roof, a white supremacist walked into a bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and slaughtered nine parishioners. This incident showed the world that racism and bigotry was sowed into the fabric of America. It showed us that the confederate flag that flies proudly over state capitals, isn’t just a symbol of states’ rights, it is a symbol of hate. Dylann Roof was captured the next day, no he wasn’t beaten, or shot, or even choked, he was actually given Burger King before being taken to jail. On the precipice of the six-year anniversary of the AME church shooting, let us analyze the why and how, maybe this will give us insight into the ugliness of American racism. 

How was Dylann Roof, a known white supremacist and criminal able to shoot twelve people, killing nine of them in the process? The answer is our laxed gun laws. Roof was able to acquire a 45-caliber Glock and eight magazines, and deadly hollow-point bullets. He was able to utilize something which came to be known as the Charleston loophole. The Charleston loophole allows gun stores and dealers to complete the sales of firearms after three days, even if a buyer’s background check has not been completed by the FBI. In 2020, there were approximately 6,000 cases in which gun purchases should have been prohibited but were still allowed to take place. Roof took advantage of a broken system, which gave him the ability to murder nine innocent people. 

If a thorough background investigation took place, it most likely would’ve uncovered that Dylann Roof was an unabating racist and criminal that shouldn’t have been able to purchase a firearm. Roof espoused his hate for black people all over social media, everything from sporting racist emblems to writing a hate filled manifesto. He praised George Zimmerman and idolized the confederate battle flag. Dylann Roof is the poster child for racist and he should have never been allowed to get a gun. 

Roof is currently incarcerated and awaiting execution at the United States Penitentiary, Terre Haute in Indiana. He was found guilty on all federal charges and pleaded guilty to all of the state charges. It is safe to say, Roof will never see the light of day and good riddance, people like him are monsters and they don’t belong in our society. 

Another issue that arose from the AME church shooting was the prominence, symbolism, and role the confederate battle flag plays in our nation. This flag has become a symbol of racism and white supremacy. It is a shame and a slap in the face to black people when that flag flies on top of government buildings. Let us be clear on a few things, that flag of hate isn’t even the flag of the Confederate States of America, so the argument of heritage is null. Why someone would even want to fly the flag of the loser confederacy beats me. During the civil rights movement, the confederate battle flag became a symbol of hatred towards black people, and it hold that title until this day.  

Nevertheless, nine beautiful and innocent lives were taken from us that day. They were Clementa C. Pinckney, the church’s pastor and a state senator, Cynthia Graham Hurd who was a librarian, Susie Jackson and her granddaughter Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lee Lance, the church’s sexton, Dr. Depayne Middleton who was a school administrator, Daniel L. Simmons who was also a pastor, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton who was a pastor, therapist, and coach, and lastly, Myra Thompson who was a bible study teacher. They may be gone but their light still shines upon us. 

Since the AME church shooting, many other mass casualties’ events have occurred. We had the Orlando nightclub shooting in 2016, the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, and the Parkland school shooting in 2018. Even during a global pandemic, we are still dealing with mass shootings. On March 16th of this year, a mass shooting occurred at three spas in Atlanta, Georgia. Like the AME church killings, this shooting targeted a minority group. Eight people were murdered, the majority of the victims were Asian women. Events like this show us that any minority group can be a target of white patriarchal supremacy. We must work together to confront racism. Both the Asian and African American community have had to endure racism and discrimination. Standing in solidarity is one of our best tools when it comes to fighting bigotry.  

As a nation we must come together to fight bigotry and racism. Black people may have been the target in this tragedy, but gun violence impacts many communities. We have to stand strong in the face of racism, every time bigotry rears its ugly head, we must trounce upon it. In doing so, we will ensure that those nine beautiful lives were not taken in vain.