Recently, several intrepid people tracked down what appears to be Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof’s “manifesto.” In it is the ramblings of a deeply racist (sorry Rick Santorum, race does seem to be his motivation, and not “attacking Christians“), deeply disturbed individual. But things only get more disturbing when you start to realize that many of the points he wants to make about race wouldn’t even place him outside of the mainstream conservatives that you may find on Fox News.
This is not to say that Fox News pundits or the politicians who parrot these talking points are all at risk of becoming depraved killers, nor is it saying that they wanted a violent act like this to happen, but it’s worth recognizing the fact that what they say has power. For a white supremacist, hearing men and women in the mainstream saying stuff that aligns with what he believes has a way of validating it. Rather than challenging Roof’s twisted belief system, places like Fox News justify it. No, they aren’t advocating the murder of black people, but they are engaged in a campaign of racial division and antipathy towards the African-American community in ways that someone like Roof could latch on to and think “See, my ideas aren’t so revolutionary.”
“Blacks were the real racists”
Roof opens his rant by suggesting black people are more racist to white people than the other way around. In his (spelling error riddled) piece, he explains how unfair reverse racism is for white guys like him:
Growing up, in school, the White and black kids would make racial jokes toward each other, but all they were were jokes. Me and White friends would sometimes would watch things that would make us think that “blacks were the real racists” and other elementary thoughts like this, but there was no real understanding behind it.
“It was obvious that Zimmerman was in the right.”
While Roof claims he didn’t really think about race relations growing up, he says his eyes were opened by the “Trayvon Martin case.” It is clear that almost immediately he became convinced that George Zimmerman, the man who shot unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon, was the real victim.
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.
Where would he get the idea that it was Zimmerman and not Trayvon who was the real victim here? Probably from the right-wing media who spent a few fevered months in 2013 outright defending Zimmerman and systematically destroying the reputation of the deceased Trayvon Martin. Fox News stars like Bill O’Reilly and Geraldo Rivera openly floated the idea that Martin was dressed like a “thug” and may have brought the murder on himself.
At the same time right-wing supporters raised millions of dollars for Zimmerman’s defense and he put it to good use, escaping conviction.
If Roof believed that Zimmerman was innocent and Trayvon Martin deserved to die for his actions that night, then, well, so did a lot of people in the conservative community.
“Black people view everything through a racial lense.”
Roof writes in his manifesto that black people have “racial awareness” that begins “almost at birth.” What he means is that black people are consciously aware of their racial identity and celebrate it. Or to put it in terms that every Fox News viewer has heard a million times: They play the “race card.”
Niggers are stupid and violent. At the same time they have the capacity to be very slick. Black people view everything through a racial lense. Thats what racial awareness is, its viewing everything that happens through a racial lense. They are always thinking about the fact that they are black. This is part of the reason they get offended so easily, and think that some thing are intended to be racist towards them, even when a White person wouldnt be thinking about race. The other reason is the Jewish agitation of the black race.
It is one of the world’s supreme ironies that racists are always the first to tell members of a minority community to lighten up. This instance is particularly abhorrent because Roof is a demonstrably violent racist who means harm. Being cautious and sensitive around a guy like Roof isn’t just healthy, it’s a survival mechanism.
Again, however, the conservative media has consistently clutched its pearls about how black people react when faced with racism or prejudice. Instead of seeing how the gaping wound of racism still bleeds (to borrow a phrase from Jon Stewart), the right-wing instinct is to tell the black community to just stop talking about race altogether.
Here’s how warped that attitude has become: When President Obama spoke movingly about the death of Trayvon Martin and recognized that a boy like Trayvon could have been him (or any other black kid growing up in America), the Right lost their minds. Sean Hannity took that to mean Obama was a drug addict as a kid (no racism there, no siree!), Fox’s Todd Starnes called Obama the “Race-Baiter in Chief”, Fox’s Greg Jarrett concluded that his comments were “stoking racial tension.”
It’s easy to imagine an 18-year-old Roof watching the conservative response to these events and feeling that fuzzy feeling you get when you know that there are people on your side.
“We are told to accept what is happening to us because of ancestors wrong doing, but it is all based on historical lies…”
Here’s a comment that you can find under a wide cross-section of comments at the bottom of right-wing articles dealing with affirmative action or race relations:
I wish with a passion that niggers were treated terribly throughout history by Whites, that every White person had an ancestor who owned slaves, that segregation was an evil an oppressive institution, and so on. Because if it was all it true, it would make it so much easier for me to accept our current situation. But it isnt true. None of it is. We are told to accept what is happening to us because of ancestors wrong doing, but it is all based on historical lies, exaggerations and myths. I have tried endlessly to think of reasons we deserve this, and I have only came back more irritated because there are no reasons.
But that’s not a comment on a right-wing blog, that’s Roof’s manifesto.
“Segregation was not a bad thing.”
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.
“I have read hundreds of slaves narratives from my state. And almost all of them were positive.”
Roof claims slavery was not only acceptable for black people but a positive experience for them.
I have read hundreds of slaves narratives from my state. And almost all of them were positive. One sticks out in my mind where an old ex-slave recounted how the day his mistress died was one of the saddest days of his life. And in many of these narratives the slaves told of how their masters didnt even allowing whipping on his plantation.
That idea is so racist that no mainstream conservative would dare say that right. Right? Well, unfortunately…
“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”
That’s Cliven Bundy, conservative hero and frequent Sean Hannity guest (until he said these words on camera and made the undercurrent of racism a bit too explicit).
So where is the difference?
None of these facts are in any way to suggest most conservatives condone what Roof did (they don’t) or even led him to do it (they didn’t). However, they do show us that the subtle winks, the little nods to prejudice that people in the right-wing media think nobody is noticing are being heard loud and clear by a particularly toxic element of their followers.
It’s likely that Roof, who by his own account frequented militantly white supremacist websites, would have found the kind of subtle racism on Fox to be too watered down for his tastes. Instead, it would only serve to reinforce that many people believed the things he did – they were just too afraid to talk openly about it. That’s a dangerous lesson for an angry, violent guy like Roof who hoped his terrorist attack would kick off a race war.
Feature image via Fox News screen capture