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Why Charleston Shooter Dylan Roof Isn’t a “Terrorist” But Maybe Some of Us Are

Why Charleston Shooter Dylan Roof Isn’t a “Terrorist” But Maybe Some of Us Are

Why Charleston Shooter Dylan Roof Isn’t a “Terrorist” But Maybe Some of Us Are
June 26
17:25 2015

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

The terms “terrorist” and “terrorism” have never been our words, they’ve always been deployed by the oppressor against us… ”

There’s a lot of noise asking why government officials from the Charleston police chief to the head of the FBI to President Obama refuse to call Charleston shooter Dylan Roof a “terrorist.” Listening closely to their offical response should make us wonder if that’s really a good idea.

As the FBI director explained, the term “terrorist” has a very specific legal meaning in the US. Legally, a terrorist is somebody aiming to influence or change government or corporate (it’s hard to tell them apart) policies by breaking the law. By that definition, Dylan Roof, who simply wanted to kill as many black people as he could is NOT a terrorist.  The willingness to kill a lot of black people is NOT a change in corporate or governmental policy. Killing lots of black folks has been business as usual ever since Europeans landed in the New World half a thousand years ago.

The Charleston shooter is a deranged kook though, because unlike the Koch Brothers, or R.J. Reynolds, or Aetna Insurance or Bank of America, United Fruit, US Steel or the Massachusetts Bay Company, all of whom filled cemeteries and raked in billions, Dylan Roof did his handful of bodies for free.

On the other hand, if you take a picture of or write a description for publication about what goes on in a food, agricultural or animal processing facility, or you’ve been protesting the leaky oil pipelines and bomb trains that wind through thousands of communities, the FBI and federally funded fusion centers have no trouble designating you an actual or potential “terrorist,” or what they call an “eco-terrorist.” The #BlackLivesMatter folks who break the law blocking traffic fit the FBI director’s definition of terrorism quite neatly, and right now Chelsea Manning is doing 35 years in federal prison for espionage, “aiding and abetting terrorism” by releasing video of US soldiers murdering Iraqi civilians, and handing over cable traffic showing everything from US State Department intervention to keep Haitian wages low to secret US bombing campaigns to US torture and mercenary companies trafficking in children and more to Wikleaks which distributed them to news outlets around the world.

The terms “terrorist” and “terrorism” have never been our words, they’ve always been deployed by the oppressor against us. The first time I recall hearing about “terrorists” and “terrorism” was back in the 1970s, when the white colonial regimes of Angola, Mozambique and Rhodesia called the black Africans who took up arms against them and fought for their people’s freedom terrorists, and declared they were on the front lines of a global war on terror. Charleston shooter Dylan Roof wore their flag, a Rhodesian flag on his jacket.

The poor and oppressed have never had the privilege of deciding who was and was not a terrorist, because the terrorist has always been a handy construction of the rich and powerful, a construction that justifies Homeland Security Departments, militarized policing and a country with 5% of the world’s population spending half the world’s military budget on its so-called “global war on terror.” Our government needs terrorism and terrorists to justify itself so badly that FBI and other police agencies constantly manufacture “terrorist plots” in which they ensnare the ignorant and unwary.

So let’s get real about this. If breaking the law to change government or corporate policy makes you a terrorist, Martin Luther King, Chelsea Manning, Wikileaks’ Julian Asange, anti-pipeline activists and “#BlackLivesMatter protestors blocking roads and streets, and even Boondocks cartoon character and self-confessed domestic terrorist Huey Freeman all pass the test.

Dylan Roof, who wants things pretty much the way they already are only more so, does not.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Bruce Dixon.  Find us on the web at, and subscribe to our free weekly email.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report.  He’s a member of the state committee of the GA Green party and lives and works near Marietta GA.  Contact him at bruce.dixon(at)


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