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Dylann Roof, a white supremacist who massacred nine black parishioners during a bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June last year, was convicted by a federal jury in Charleston, S.C. last Thursday. The jury, who took just 2 hours to deliberate and return with the verdict, found Roof guilty on all 33 charges in his indictment, as reported by the Washington Post.
When the jury reconvenes on January 3 next year, they will determine whether the 22-year-old should be sentenced to the death penalty or life in prison for his horrendous hate crimes. According to Joseph Meek, Dylann Roof’s childhood friend, Roof didn’t always harbor racist views, but started spewing racist white nationalist and white supremacist ideas in the months leading up to the horrific Charleston attack.
White nationalism in the United States is an ideology that espouses the belief that America’s strength as a nation lies in its founding as a “white European” country, and that white identity is presently under attack and must be preserved. White supremacy—from which white nationalism stems—is the belief that whites are superior to all other races. Many would argue that white supremacists use the label “white nationalist” to distance themselves from the negative connotations associated with being white supremacists. The terms are practically interchangeable in everyday conversation.
Meek, who himself faces up to eight years in prison on charges of withholding knowledge of the details of a crime, among other charges, stated that he and Roof often had sleep overs as kids.
Roof, a high school dropout who reportedly attended seven schools in nine years, was self-radicalized when he started reading white supremacist websites. That Dylann Roof apparently acquired his racist views not from his parents or friends, but from online outlets is a fact that is all too often ignored in discourse about this case. The fact is that in the 21st century, largely due to the advent of the internet, ideas—both good and bad—can be disseminated at a frighteningly rapid rate. The question that should be at the forefront of our minds at this point is, what should be the prevailing response to the proliferation of particularly bad ideas, like white supremacy?