Today, on December 15, Dylann Roof has been found guilty of all 33 charges against him — including nine charges against him for murder — for the June 17, 2015 shooting rampage at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church that left a nation horrified and Black America traumatized. There is now some small closure for the families of Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Clementa C. Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Myra Thompson. The sentencing phase begins January 3, 2017, but it’s safe to say that Dylann Roof will never be able to hurt anyone else ever again.
But understand this: Convicting Dylann Roof was the absolute least this nation could do and it alone does not equal justice for the nine victims slain at his hand.
Understand that the Emanuel Nine lived every day in a country that did not value them. Understand that they lived every day in a country that had been striving to end their lives. Understand that they lived in a country where the color of their skin made them subject to abuse, neglect, discrimination, poverty, and invisibility. Understand that many of the Emanuel Nine lived through Jim Crow, through racist slurs, through spit in their faces, through overwhelming oppression, through abject dehumanization.
Understand that if the Emanuel Nine had instead been shot by trigger-happy police in individual traffic stops, none of their killers would see a day in prison. Understand that they lived every day knowing that.
Understand that if instead they had died by heart attack because of lack of access to health care or because doctors ignored their chest pain because they do not believe that they felt pain like white people do, none of their killers would see a day in prison. Understand that they lived every day knowing that.
Understand that if they had not died in body, but only in spirit as lead-filled Flint water damaged their bodies and minds, none of their killers would see a day in prison. Understand that they lived every day knowing that.
And understand that in spite of all that, they still built home, community, family, and faith. And in the center of that all, in their church, they were murdered.
They were murdered by a young man whose hate is not more evil, more rare, or more potent than what we are currently seeing on our Twitter feeds. Than what we just elected to the presidency.
They were murdered by a young man too impatient to let the system do it for him.
There are more Dylann Roofs out there, and they are being aided and abetted by a country that has hated black people ever since they were told that they could no longer use us for cattle.
Justice for the Emanuel Nine does not end with the conviction of Dylann Roof. It ends with the conviction of this entire system.