White Supremacists Aren’t Born; They’re Made

Loren Anderson

Summary: The shooting of 9 Black elders at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina was not a fluke or an isolated incident, but one of the effects of an alienating, racist, and otherwise oppressive economic system on humanity — Editors

Reading Dylann Storm Roof’s short manifesto feels like an accurate introduction to his very specific demographic: that of the white supremacist. But unlike organized white supremacists such as the Klu Klux Klan, the Council of Conservative Citizens (the group Roof gives credit to for inspiring his attacks because of their concocted statistics on Black on white crime), or the government of South Africa under Apartheid, Roof acted alone when he entered a historically Black church in Charleston, South Carolina, stayed for an hour of Bible study, and then shot and murdered 9 people. He reloaded his gun 5 times to carry this out. (1) According to a BBC interview of one of Roof’s Black friends Roof never treated him any differently than anyone else and “never said anything racist” to him. (This puts the last nail in the coffin of the common racist argument that usually goes something like “I’m not racist, some of my best friends are Black”.) Roof was clearly attacking Black people as a group and/or as an institution much more than he was attacking any specific Black person or subset of Black people. He read falsififed Black on white crime statistics from the website of the Council of Conservative Citizens stating that 83% of murders are performed by Black people on white people. Even if these statistics were true, most crimes are crimes of poverty. And these statistics would ignore the economic status of the perpetrators and the victims. These data would tell a different story. A story of elements of society pushed down so far that they see little recourse than to take by force what they need to survive. White people as a group have much more wealth on average than Black people as a group and ignoring the economic character and class character of these crimes definitely favors the racist formulations. (2) What makes a person like Dylann Roof do the terrible things he did? Nobody is born racist any more than someone is born a software engineer or born a politician. It is the life experiences of people and their interpretations of those experiences, their subjectivity, that makes people have their humanity as deformed as Roof’s. Roof, before becoming a murder suspect facing the death penalty, was an unemployed landscaper. His parents had been bugging him to get a job for months. (3) He lived, like we all do, under an exploitative, dehumanizing, and alienating economic system that’s sole motivation is making profit at any expense, even the expense of human lives. The only thing worse than being exploited under capitalism is not being exploited under capitalism. And the same system that enabled Roof’s alienation from society and his alienation from his own humanity is the same system that maintains racism as a way to keep people pitted against each other using false categories like race instead of overthrowing the economic system at the root of their problems. Roof said that he almost didn’t go through with the shooting because “everyone was so nice” (4) . The pastor leading the Bible study was so welcoming he made sure Roof sat right next to him during the study. In a society that valued human life and other life a person like Dylann Roof, in his white supremacist incarnation, would be impossible. The same socioeconomic system that created white supremacy is the same system that alienated Dylann Roof from his humanity, and made tragedies like these possible.

  1. The Last Rhodesian
  2. The New Observer: Dylann Roof and the Dangers of Denying Black-on-White Crime: Council of Conservative Citizens Spokesman
  3. New York Times: Dylann Roof, Suspect in Charleston Shooting, Flew the Flags of White Power
  4. International Business Times: Dylann Roof Motive: He ‘Almost Didn’t Go Through With It Because Everyone Was So Nice To Him’

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