Crime & Lawsuits, Lisa Bloom

The Charleston church massacre: Of course it’s terrorism

The Charleston church massacre

Dylann Roof, the young white supremacist who allegedly murdered nine African Americans at a historic black church in South Carolina, wanted to “start a race war.”  He dressed for the massacre in a jacket adorned with an apartheid-era South African flag, and one from white-ruled Rhodesia. He allowed a woman inside the Emanuel A.M.E. Church to live so that she could tell the story later, presumably to spread his message of hate. On his notorious and virulently racist website (links to which can be found easily online, if you’re interested), he said:

“I have no choice. I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country. We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.”

This is terrorism: premeditated violence against civilians by non-state actors with the intent to provoke fear and political unrest in service of an extremist ideology. One of the victims, in fact, was an elected state legislator.

Our reluctance to call this incident terrorism has little to do with it meeting the definition (it does, easily) and everything to do with who we are accustomed to labeling as terrorists. Had a Muslim walked into a church, synagogue, statehouse, subway or anywhere else and started shooting, we’d call him a terrorist immediately. As Glenn Greenwald wrote:

“It was very hard — and still is — to escape the conclusion that the term “terrorism,” at least as it’s predominantly used in the post-9/11 West, is about the identity of those committing the violence and the identity of the targets. It manifestly has nothing to do with some neutral, objective assessment of the acts being labelled.”

Musician Sean “Diddy” Combs is accused of swinging a kettlebell at his son’s football coach and angrily yelling at him. No one was hurt, thank goodness. Less than 24 hours after the incident, he’s now accused of making terroristic threats.

One week after the Charleston massacre, despite his own words making his intent crystal clear, Dylann Roof has not been charged with terrorism.

America, 2015.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Avvo.


  1. 1

    I am living in the south but from the west coast. People need to read their history books before they take away and remove a flag because of one person. This country is getting ridiculous!!!!!! We are supposed to be free and allowed to give our opinion without the worry of repercussion. One person goes in and does something CRAZY and now others have to pay for those actions. When idiots have gone into schools and taken valuable lives whose fault it that??? It lies with the individuals who committed the crimes. Everything is not someone else’s fault!!! When people start taking responsibility for what they do themselves, we would see a change in the attitude of criminals. Who when arrested, always complain, it was my parents, the school system, society……whatever the excuse is for bad behavior. This nonsense of taking a flag away from people who pride themselves and their heritage with the symbolic meaning behind it is ridiculous. They have family members who fought in that war like many other wars that have been fought. Why is it that we take pride in some wars and disgrace others? Their are many nationalities represented in this country. Will everyone be made to get rid of whatever is symbolic of their heritage? THINK!!!! Like many items that individuals use to show their belief, heritage etc. from a St. Peters medallion to flags for their school spirit…..Where does it stop? What’s next?

  2. 2

    One person does not start a war in this country. This was not an act of terrorism. This was the act of a deranged killer. He was not affiliated with any extremists.

  3. 3

    You and the other Reporters should focus on the flags Mr. Roof was wearing in his photo and not on the Flag he was holding. The other flags stand for Hatred and oppression of Black people in a more recent Era of Time than the Stars and Bars, Or are you press people afraid you might offend these people ? or will this be less of a story ? or will it not stir the pot enough ?. I agree that this is an act of Terrorism but lets put the blame on the right thing Mr. Roof. not the symbols he tried to surround himself with.

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