Yesterday, when Dylann Storm Roof had been identified as a suspect but not yet apprehended, the Charleston police and FBI put out a bulletin describing him and his car. “The suspect was seen leaving the church in a black four-door sedan,” a police flier said. Charleston Police Chief Gregory Mullen added, “The vehicle you will see has a very distinctive front license plate,” but he did not specify its distinctiveness. The plate’s “distinctiveness” was, it now seems, that it celebrated the Confederate States of America. Chief Mullen quickly and forthrightly called this a “hate crime,” but calling out the celebration of the Confederacy is apparently too hot to handle in a state where the Confederate flag still flies in front of the state capitol.
According to at least one witness to the shooting, Dylann Roof said, as he reloaded his gun to shoot and kill nine black people in the church, which was founded by abolitionist martyr and hero Denmark Vesey and has served for two centuries as a center of the struggle for African-American liberation, “I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country and you have to go.” Organized, institutional, state-sanctioned racism manifests itself in the minds of individuals such as Dylann Root. Flags, license plates, and murderous hatred are all parts of the same illness, an illness that has always infected the United States and infects it still.
— Megan Rivers (@MegMRivers) June 18, 2015