What was the difference?
Two more tragic shooting events have rocked the United States. One was on June 17, in Charleston, SC where nine Blacks were shot and killed in an AME church, by a young White man. The second, July 16, was in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where five Whites were shot and killed by a young Muslim man, at two military recruiting stations. This column will review the eerily and significantly different ways the shooting of Whites was handled contrasted to how the shooting of Blacks was handled.
In Charleston, SC, the 21-year-old killer, Dylan Roof, survived. He is a self-described White supremacist. As Black Americans, we have difficulty accepting the White supremacist not being labeled as a domestic terrorist, regardless of whether he was a lone wolf or with others. It wasn’t until President Obama delivered his eulogy for Rev. Pickney that commentators began to talk about race and domestic terror.
In Chattanooga, TN, the killer of five Whites, Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez, is a naturalized citizen. The young man, a 24-year-old Muslim, was killed at the scene. Lead headlines in newspapers across America were about federal investigators digging deeply into the travel, Internet presence and family history of Abdulazeez. They even took a handcuffed woman out of the Abdulazeez home. She was not identified, leaving the inference that she was a co-conspirator.
We still want to know why the same scrutiny wasn’t given to the background and associates of the White shooter in Charleston. Why weren’t Roof’s parents put on public display in Charleston? Why weren’t any of Roof’s associates taken in handcuffs? Little has been heard about them and their affiliations and relationships.
A great deal of information has been reported about the time Abdulazeez spent in Jordan over the last year. His father was a person of interest in the 1990s who gave money to Muslim charities overseas. Regardless of the media, the script for international terror with international connections is now in place — clearly a double standard.
Roof has been presented as an American-born terrorist who, other than plagiarizing a manifesto taken off the website of one of the most dangerous neo-Nazi White supremacist groups in the United States, has been identified as a man with no history with extremist groups in the United States.
Mr. Abdulazeez, who for a period of 10 days in the month prior to his attacks on the military recruitment centers, found employment in a nuclear facility — that’s kind of scary. The federal agencies investigating the deaths in Chattanooga have left no rock unturned nor left any doors unopened. Their investigation has been thorough and intense, as it should be. But in Charleston, by contrast, my sense as a Black American is that the authorities are just going through the motions: less thorough, less intense.
Our perception of their behavior, whether correct or not, influences our subsequent interpretations. The difference in handling these cases has created the sense and feeling in the Black community that there is an imbalance in the perceived importance of Black Americans on one hand and White Americans on the other. Of course, all are equally important to their families and loved ones, yet seemingly not as important beyond our communities.
In a couple of months there will be a very detailed report on the investigation that took place regarding the carnage in Chattanooga. In the case of Charleston there will be no such due diligence, as it appears that book has been closed.
So, once again, it will be business as usual.