Last week, on Wednesday June 17, 2015, a 21-year-old gunman by the name of Dylann Roof shot dead nine people attending Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The shooter was detained Thursday morning during a traffic stop in North Carolina. Friends reported that Roof (who is white) had said that he wanted to start a new civil war. In a photo posted on Facebook, he posed wearing a black jacket that prominently featured the flags of Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, and apartheid-era South Africa, from when the two African countries were ruled by the white minority. There is little doubt that the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina was caused by racism and hatred.
We at CTC express our deepest condolences for the victims and their families, and our thoughts go out to Charleston. We understand this shooting to be an act of terrorism, reminding us, yet again, of the legacy of slavery, racism and hatred.
We are deeply disturbed by the fact that many (including some news commentators) are trying to link this act of violence with mental illness, despite the fact that studies show no link between mental illness and violence. Further as most research shows, people suffering from mental illness are often the victims of violence, not the other way around. Worse, this erroneous link between violence and mental illness, stigmatizes those struggling with mental health issues, and therefore prevents them from seeking much needed services.
It is not mental illness that led Dylann Roof to choose a black church which stands as a historical symbol of black resistance and progressive politics. Just like it is not mental illness that made him kill only black people, reloading five times and leaving a witness behind to testify as to his racist message. Dylann Roof is a product of racialized rhetoric, bigotry, institutionalized racism and hate. To dismiss his actions under the label of mental illness is to perpetuate that racism, and to stigmatize people who are often already stigmatized by our society, and underserved by a health care system that attends (/covers via health insurance) to physical problems while limiting services for mental ones.
Left with deep hurt and few words, we have complied articles and videos to share with you about this tragic event.
Saloon – It’s not about mental illness: The big lie that always follows mass shootings by white males
Washington Post – Shooters of color are called “terrorists” and “thugs.” Why are white shooters called “mentally ill”?
The Nation – Charleston’s ‘Mother Emanuel Church’ Has Stared Down Racist Violence for 200 Years