Dylann Roof, 21, the gunman suspected of shooting dead nine people at a historic black church in Charleston. Photo: Facebook
Dylann Roof, 21, the gunman suspected of shooting dead nine people at a historic black church in Charleston. Photo: Facebook

Let Dylann Roof off the hook

By Eusebius McKaiser Time of article published Jun 22, 2015

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Our collective racism and hatred are among the building blocks of what led to the church massacre, writes Eusebius McKaiser.

Dylann Roof isn’t a terrorist. He isn’t a racist. He isn’t a monster. He isn’t a murderer. And he certainly isn’t singularly responsible for having allegedly killed nine people.

Roof is the product of a world that created him. He doesn’t have complete agency. We created the racist society into which poor Roof was born. It is our collective racism and hatred that are the building blocks of the Roof tragedy.

Roof is a victim of society. It’s society that’s the real criminal responsible for the death of the nine people whose names escape me. When will society man up and take responsibility for ruining the lives of young people like Roof? Enough is enough.

Roof didn’t have a chance to be an innocent young adult and now he might get a criminal record because of a sick society that infected him with its racial sickness.

This is why it’s also important to realise there are many victims here. There are the innocent people who died, their families and their friends. There’s Roof, victim of circumstance. And there’s, of course, Roof’s friends and family who, sadly, aren’t getting any coverage from the media. As the judge said at Roof’s first court appearance, these other people are victims too.

The least we can do to ensure complete justice is to properly examine the life history of Roof.

Credible reports suggest the poor kid took medication that sometimes led to violent outbursts. We must get to the bottom of this possibility. Pharmaceutical companies have a long history of flooding the market with dangerous substances to push profits rather than to enhance the quality of our lives. If Roof turns out to be a victim of big pharma injustice, everyone of us must be outraged at the consequences of rampant capitalism.

No person should be held morally or legally responsible for actions that flow from chemicals that were irresponsibly given to them because of corporate greed.

We need to fix the distribution channels that make strong drugs too easily available to naive young people like poor Roof. And if that story is true, the company responsible for the drug must be pressured through consumer activism to pay every cent that is required to heal Roof so he can become a healthy young citizen again.

Perhaps the saddest part of the whole tragedy is that Roof’s empathy for other people shone so brightly for an hour in that church. For a whole hour, he was in communion with people different from him. He reportedly tells us that he almost didn’t shoot any of them because they were so nice to him. I confess, I was moved to tears.

What that shows is that it would be cruel for us to lock up Roof and scapegoat him for society’s ills.

In that hour before he allegedly shot the nine people, he showed an ability to empathise and therein lies hope for him to heal fully and so complete the potential he has to reach out to communities that are alien to the one he comes from.

Prison would kill his humanity and not only would a guilty verdict make him unfairly pay for the sick society that created him, a guilty verdict would also show what brutes we are. Do we not have it in us to take restorative justice seriously, like some of the dead people’s relatives who have forgiven Roof? We can and must learn from them.

President Barack Obama is right. If guns were not easily available, then the nine people would have lived today. Roof is the victim of a society that allows too many guns in circulation. They’re too easy to obtain. Shame on lobbyists and legislators who refuse to agree to gun control reforms. You, and not Roof, killed those nine people. Roof precedes a history of gun violence.

Society owes Roof an apology. We, white and black people, let him down. Gun owners and lobbyists let him down. His parents let him down. Drug companies let him down. And even the old South African flag inspiring racial hatred, let him down.

We ought to regret, as a society, not giving Roof a chance to be a healthy, normal, productive citizen of the world.

Why do we owe him this apology? Why shouldn’t we lock him up? Why must we protect him from those who think he’s a terrorist? Why must we forgive him and even ask his forgiveness of us?

The reason is self-evident, but in case you have just arrived on planet Earth, unfamiliar with our history this side of the Milky Way, I’ll tell you the reason: Roof is white.

* Eusebius McKaiser is the best-selling author of A Bantu In My Bathroom and Could I Vote DA? A Voter’s Dilemma.

** The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Independent Media.

The Star

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