Dylann Roof was indicted on Tuesday by a grand jury for nine counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder. The charges come out of his alleged shootings at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17. If Roof is guilty, of course, he is no simple murderer but a white supremacist terrorist who hoped to start a race war. Members of all minorities in America are menaced by such hate groups, not just African-Americans. Only last year, three Jews were shot dead in Overland Pass, Kansas, by a Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan.
Now it emerges that a major attack was planned on a largely Muslim suburb of Hancock, New York. Former candidate for the US Congress and Christian clergyman Robert Doggart was indicted this week for plotting a military-style assault on the American Muslims of Hancock. Doggart allegedly urged his followers to stock up on assault weapons and Molotov cocktails: “The Operation in mind requires but <20 expert gunners. Target 3 is vulnerable from many approaches, and must be utterly destroyed in order to get the attention of the American People. If you are volunteering, and can show for a face-to-face meeting of these patriots, then we would welcome your skill set.” He planned to burn down a mosque and a school and cut the residents “to shreds.”
There has already been a major massacre aimed against American Muslims, the killing of six people at a community picnic in Oak Creek, Wisconsin in 2012 by white supremacist Wade Michael Page. His hatred was so blind and ignorant, however, that he ended up killing Sikhs rather than Muslims (male Sikhs often wear a turban, but theirs is a South Asian religion closer to Hinduism than to Islam).
How does someone become so warped? Dylann Roof was radicalized by white-supremacist websites and by inflammatory media reporting on the killing of Trayvon Martin, which often took a blame-the-victim tone. Devotees of racial hatred stereotype a minority as dangerous in their essence. While there are individuals who are prone to violence, there are no large social groupings of millions who are, by virtue of some innate DNA.
There is, moreover, no such thing as race in the 19th-century conception of a “pure” bloodline. About 12 percent of “whites” in Louisiana and South Carolina have recent African-American ancestors (perhaps Dylann Roof does). Over time, all will have some African roots, as that 12 percent intermarries with the rest. About a quarter of the genetic inheritance of the average African-American derives from Europe, and 2 percent from Native Americans. In Spain, where Isabella and Ferdinand attempted to ban Judaism and Islam in 1492, perhaps a fifth of today’s Spanish population has Jewish ancestors, and one in 10 is descended from Arab Muslims.