- June 18, 2015 7:23 p.m. ET
- 186 COMMENTS
- It is inevitable that when nine black men and women are shot to death inside their church by a 21-year-old white man in Charleston, S.C., the issue of race in America will be raised.
- It does not matter that the alleged killer, Dylann Roof, brings to mind the mentally troubled young men who committed horrific mass murders of innocents inside buildings in Newtown, Conn.; Aurora, Colo.; or Virginia Tech. Nor does it matter that individuals are murdered every day in less noted acts of hatred or rage that leave survivors bereft beyond understanding.
- A white man murdering black people in the South forces bad memories to the surface, and so it surely was appropriate for President Obama to note this in his remarks Thursday. Specifically, Mr. Obama recalled the September 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., that killed four black girls.
- The President quoted at some length Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s remarks on the bombing: “They say to each of us, black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution. They say to us that we must be concerned not merely with [about] who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers. Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American Dream.”
- Amid the horror of Charleston, it is also important to note that the U.S., notably the South, has moved forward to replace the system that enabled racist killings like those in the Birmingham church.
- Back then and before, the institutions of government—police, courts, organized segregation—often worked to protect perpetrators of racially motivated violence, rather than their victims.
- The universal condemnation of the murders at the Emanuel AME Church and Dylann Roof’s quick capture by the combined efforts of local, state and federal police is a world away from what President Obama recalled as “a dark part of our history.” Today the system and philosophy of institutionalized racism identified by Dr. King no longer exists.
- What causes young men such as Dylann Roof to erupt in homicidal rage, whatever their motivation, is a problem that defies explanation beyond the reality that evil still stalks humanity. It is no small solace that in committing such an act today, he stands alone.
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