chapter  1
19 Pages

Ideology and Ideologies

On a warm June evening in 2015, a prayer service was beginning at “Mother Emanuel”—the Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina-when a 21-year-old white man entered and asked the black worshippers if he could join them. They welcomed him warmly. After nearly an hour of praying with them (or perhaps pretending to), the young man took out a newly purchased pistol and began to shoot the congregants without regard to age or sex and with regard only to the color of their skin. While shouting racist epithets and slogans, he killed nine people, including the pastor, and wounded another before fl eeing into the night. Arrested the next day, he told police that he had hoped to start a “race war.” The investigation that followed showed the shooter to have been a racist, a white supremacist, and a neo-Nazi sympathizer. Photos posted on his Facebook page showed him holding weapons, fl anked by a Confederate fl ag; in another photo he is burning an American fl ag. He had also written a 2,500-word “manifesto” denigrating African-Americans and defending white supremacy. The FBI deemed the crime an act of “domestic terrorism.” And, far from starting his hoped-for race war, the shooter’s murderous attack backfi red. The conservative Republican governor and a majority of the Republican-led state legislature agreed to remove the Confederate fl ag from the state capitol grounds, where it had fl own for decades. In the scale of things, this is a somewhat positive outcome of a negative act. Yet his was hardly the only instance of home-grown terrorism.