White terrorism? US avoids race debate in latest shooting massacre

Police lead suspected shooter Dylann Roof, 21, into the courthouse in Shelby, North Carolina, June 18, 2015. (Reuters / Jason Miczek)
Had a black person or a Muslim carried out the Charleston shooting, the media narrative would have been completely different and much of the blame has to do with US public policy, says Solomon Comissiong, host and founder of Your World News Radio Show.

On Wednesday 9 African-Americans were killed in a church in South Carolina, allegedly by a white man named Dylann Storm Roof. The attack took place during evening prayers at the city's Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church, one of the oldest in the United States which has one of the largest black congregations in the south. Nevertheless, US officials and the President do not seem to see any hate crime in this story.

Is America colorblind only when covering crimes involving whites? For more on this, RT’s show “In the Now” talked to Solomon Comissiong, host and founder of Your World News Radio Show.

READ MORE: 9 people killed in S. Carolina church shooting, police investigating ‘hate crime’

RT:A black shooter is a thug, a Muslim is a terrorist and a white attacker is perhaps mentally ill according to some media reports. Does that sound about right?

Solomon Comissiong: No, it doesn’t sound right but in the US it sounds right to most Americans because they are used to this kind of systematic programming that often times goes completely off the radar so they start to follow the narratives and it becomes commonplace, but it’s not right. It’s outrageous; it’s racist to its core. You are right with your leading question because if it was a brown skin Muslim, we can imagine that immediately the media would have labeled him a terrorist. So why is this man, Dylann Roof, not labeled as a terrorist?

We can understand the same way back in 1995 when the Oklahoma City bombing occurred. Immediately some of the major newspapers put out the narratives that they are looking for two Arab men and we found out it wasn’t two Arab or Muslim men, it was two white men - Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. And then there was no massive dragnet, no massive racial profiling looking at “we are going to stop and harass white men between the ages of this and that.” None of that happened. And none of that will happen in this case. But if it was a black man, a person of color, a Muslim the narrative would be completely different in the media and that has so much to do with public policy in the US and how these types of racially motivated and racist incidents are framed.

RT:But according to President Obama’s statements on what has happened in Charleston he considered that rather an issue of gun violence than a racist one.

SC: Of course, this is Obama’s mantra; this is how he has been since even before he became president of the US. He does his best to try to genuflect and try to grovel and to placate and mollify the sensibilities of whites in this country, whether it be white conservatives or liberals he wants no honest discussion of race. Unless it’s chastising and vilifying African-Americans. So we saw he labeled protesters in Baltimore as “thugs.” In 2010, he goes into a black church and starts to denigrate black men in terms of their responsibilities with their children and instead of saying “This is across the board, black and white men and every color in between need to be more responsible in terms of their responsibilities with their children.”

So he stays as far away from any kind of honest dialogue about institutional race or racism in this country, unless it has to do with vilifying and chastising African-Americans. So I’m not surprised that this was the immediate tone and tenor he took and not even mentioned that this young man is a domestic terrorist. And what’s also interesting is that this man was taken alive. We can only imagine if this was a person of color or a Muslim person driving along - they would have shot first and asked questions later - and there would have been no due process, they would have played judge, jury and executioner as they quite often do with people of color in this country.

‘Not just race hate-crime, rather domestic terrorism’

Hate crimes still continue to happen in the US and African-Americans have been disproportionately victims of such attacks with the government failing to protect them, Wisconsin State Representative Mandela Barnes told RT.

RT:Top officials including President Obama have avoided calling this a race-hate crime and focus on the gun control issue instead. Why do you think is that?

Mandela Barnes: I don’t know why that is the case. However, I wouldn’t even call it a race hate-crime, what I would call it is domestic terrorism. That’s exactly what it is. We’ve seen this a number of times in this country. Recently, three years ago in my own home state, 30 miles from where I live, at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, there was a very similar attack carried out by a white supremacist who targeted Sikh worshipers in their place of worship. It was a massacre and that is what has happened here in South Carolina.

READ MORE: S. Carolina church shooting suspect arrested; identified as Dylann Storm Roof, 21

RT:Do you think it could have, nonetheless, a negative effect on the race relations in your country?

MB: Well, the thing is, the race relations is a conversation that has to continue to happen and it doesn’t happen enough. We still aren’t on a solid racial footing in this country. Its just 150 years this year we removed slavery in the United States of America. There are people in this country - and you even look at like South Carolina who still flies the racist Confederate flag - and it shouldn’t be a big shocker to see an attack like this carried out in that state, and other states for that matter, in the US. There are people in this country who are vile in their racism and you see this type of attack carried out. It’s frightening, and it should be frightening for a whole lot of people. And this is unfortunately where we are.

RT:Do you think the government could do a better job of protecting the African-American community?

MB: Well, that too. When you look at police violence and you look at civilian violence. And, you know, the president and other people do bring up an important issue when we look at the issue of guns. Does a person’s 2nd Amendment right, even in this situation, trump a person’s 1st Amendment right, and with that right of freedom of speech and the freedom of religion? These were innocent worshipers who were attacked in the church. This is something that should never happen, something that should never take place. When you look at the level of gun violence in this country, regardless of what the race is, the ease that most people have in obtaining weapons, regardless of where you are in thought, and how you plan to use that weapon.

That’s not a question that’s asked when people seek to buy firearms. And when it comes to protecting the African-American citizens in this country, I think that we all, as leaders in government, there is a duty to protect every citizen. And African-Americans have been disproportionately victims of attacks. And even if you look back, just in five decades ago, back in the 1960s, 1965, even before that when you saw the Birmingham church bombing where the three little girls were killed, in that bombing. This is very relative, this is very similar to that attack, albeit that the method that was used was different, the situation, the scenario, was exactly the same.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.