“We created Dylann Roof,” insists the Huffington Post.
To which I reply, “No, I didn’t. I didn’t even know the guy.” Yes, I am part of a culture that has a disturbing, terrible, racist past. I am part of a culture that includes, to this day, racists. I am part of a culture that has a painful racial divide that needs healing. There is plenty to indict us.
Zeba Blay asks, “So who should we blame for Dylann Roof?” and answers, “We should blame ourselves.”
I’m not going to blame myself. I am not even going to point blame at the culture, Dylann Roof’s parents, his family and friends, his schools, or the books he read and websites he visited. Those may or may not have been contributing factors, but they are not to blame.
It is Dylann Roof alone who is to blame because he was acting alone when he walked into a church building, spent an hour with people he admitted treated him very nicely — people that have left huge vacancies behind in the hearts of their families and community — and gunned them down. To insist that “It must be acknowledged that there are more Dylann Roofs out there, and they exist because we let them” is not just to point the blame at white Americans but at the very ones — the Mother Emanuel Nine — that he killed.
Some may say that I am merely voicing my unwillingness to look at my own white privilege or my own covert racism. To which I say, You obviously don’t know me and you have no idea of my state of mind since I first learned of the terrible killings. I didn’t just watch the service being live streamed from Emanuel AME Church on Sunday, or the rally held Tuesday at the South Carolina Capitol. I have spent much time soul-searching, and in prayer. Trust me; I am not holding myself up as a paragon of justice and righteousness, or as one who perfectly reflects God the Father’s heart on the issue of race. I am not trying to deflect any blame that I deserve.
Here is why I take issue.
Each of us is responsible for our own actions, for our own attitudes, for our own choices. Blame-shifting began with the very first sin — God didn’t buy it then, and He isn’t buying it now. We need to examine our own hearts and lives for real sins we are committing, not embrace some vague and foggy sense of guilt because we supposedly “let” a racist commit heinous acts clear across the country from us.
Those of you who have read this know that, at the age of 23, I was raped by two of my neighbors. While I have encountered, since then, some compelling and convincing arguments about “rape culture”, I do not blame the culture for my rape. I do not blame you, even if you were alive then. I do not blame the friend who knocked on the locked door behind which I was being held prisoner and, not getting an answer, walked away. I do not even blame myself. I blame those men, not their parents or their friends or the other men who laughed at their rape jokes or even those who taught them to rape. I blame the men who raped me.
No one “let” those men rape me. No one turned them into rapists. We did not create Lou and Carl. I certainly didn’t. No one held a gun to their heads and forced them to rape me. No one brainwashed them into thinking that raping me was a good, moral deed and a great kindness.
No one held a gun to Dylann Roof’s head. No one brainwashed him. He knew full well what he was doing, and why he was doing it. He told them and he told us.
So did my rapists. They told me.
Evil exists. If a culture is mostly evil, it is because it is full of people with evil lurking in their hearts. We didn’t put the evil into other people’s minds and hearts. We need to look at our own hearts, at our own evil — the stuff we really don’t want to face. We need to stop giving murderers and rapists ways to weasel out of taking full responsibility for their despicable acts: oh, it wasn’t really you, it was the culture…it was us…we let you commit these horrible crimes…we created you… We need to stop blaming society and laws and the educational system — even while we should work diligently to reform those very things and bring about more justice and equality.
Yes, the culture needs changing. But that means people have to change. We can’t force that on others. We can only change ourselves, and pray for and influence others. It’s time we faced that.
So who should we blame for Dylann Roof? He alone is to blame for his actions.
So who should we blame for Lou and Carl? They alone are to blame for their actions.
So who should we blame for Rebecca Prewett? Wouldn’t it be nice if I could blame culture, nature, and nurture for every sin I’ve ever committed? If I could blame you for “creating” me and “letting” me? When I stand before God some day, I won’t be able to blame-shift, not even a little bit. I’ll have to own up to it all…and throw myself on the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ.