On Thursday's telecast of "Democracy Now," the President and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Cornell William Brooks, was briefly interviewed about mass murderer Dylann Roof.
Roof, who killed nine people in Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17, 2005, stated this week in the sentencing phase of his trial "I would like to make it crystal clear I do not regret what I did. ... I am not sorry. I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed." Co-host Nermeen Shaikh asked Brooks "Your response to what Dylann Roof wrote?" and the reply began
Well, I’d also like to note that I’m also a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. I grew up in and around Charleston. I’m very familiar with Mother Emanuel Church. And it is, quite simply, heartbreaking to hear the killer, the murderer, one person I refer to as a racial terrorist, refer to the taking of lives in such a cavalier, callous and inhumane fashion and show absolutely no remorse.
Brooks should have stopped there. Instead, he added
The NAACP stands unapologetically against the death penalty. We do so as a matter of principle. That being said, we support the prosecution and the punishment to the fullest and the firmest extent of the law for someone who has engaged in what we called a hate crime from the very beginning. I recall standing on the sidewalk outside of Emanuel AME Church shortly after nine students of scripture were slain in that church beside—I should say, including the pastor. And I recall referring to the crime, but also talking about the fact that while there’s a climate of caring in the country, there’s also an environment of hate.
Well, no, if what Brooks said is accurate, the NAACP does not "support the prosecution and the punishment to the fullest and the firmest extent of the law." The maximum penalty for first degree murder in South Carolina is death by lethal injection, which it would appear Brooks and his organization oppose.
But it got worse when Brooks went on to say
So we’re concerned about Dylann Roof and him being punished. We’re also concerned about the racial animus, the sanitized, homogenized, alt-right atmosphere in the country that is giving rise to this kind of sentiment and driving violent crimes. We’ve seen this around the country. We’ve seen it in the FBI hate crimes statistics. We’ve certainly seen it in the numbers reported out by the Anti-Defamation League. And so, as chilling and as concerning and as alarming as the sentencing phase of the trial of Dylann Roof is, we should be chilled and concerned and alarmed about the state of America, because Dylann Roof may seem like an abhorrent aberration, but we’re concerned that that kind of behavior can be normalized because of the racial animus in the country, the xenophobic attitudes in the country, the homophobic attitudes in the country.
To the contrary: Dylann Roof is an abhorrent aberration. He killed not one person; not two, three, four, five, six, seven, or even eight individuals, but nine human beings. In the last three years, there have been only three other instances in which nine or more individuals have been killed by another person. That's nine too many, but pales in comparison to the number of shooting deaths in this country, even the number of mass murders in which fewer people have been killed.
We can, and should, be "chilled and concerned and alarmed about the state of America," although it's puzzling how "homophobic attitudes" played into Roof's motivation (puzzling being a euphemism for "ludicrous"). There is little or no evidence the current "alt right atmosphere" had anything to do with the crime Roof committed nineteen (19) months ago.
Unable or unwilling to leave bad logic alone, Brooks argued also
The point being here is, we cannot separate the tone and tenor of the last campaign from what’s going on in Charleston even as we speak. And so, the NAACP is standing in firm opposition to both the atmosphere that gave rise to Dylann Roof’s crimes, even as we call for his prosecution and punishment. And so, make no mistake: This is not about the trial of one individual; it’s about the state of America more broadly.
It is curious that Roof committed his act the day after Donald Trump announced for the presidency. However, the assailant did not suggest the Trump campaign had anything to do with his actions. Neither had anyone else before Brooks claimed "we cannot separate the tone and tenor of the last campaign from what's going on in Charleston."
As long as the concept of individual responsibility prevails, the trial is about one man. Only one individual pulled the trigger in Charleston, South Carolina. America is not responsible for Dylann Roof; Dylan Roof is responsible for Dylann Roof. As Cornell William Brooks would put it, "make no mistake about it": dispersing blame for the offender's action to the country generally minimizes the horrific nature of the crime and of the criminal himself. There is enough to blame on the alternative right and Donald Trump without making unsupportable claims.