It doesn’t seem logical that the first female, African-American Attorney General would be forced to deal with a 21-year-old mass murderer who wanted to start a race war, but that’s the situation Loretta Lynch faces. According to ABC News, Charleston shooting suspect Dylann Roof has been charged under federal hate crime laws. The 33 civil rights charges, including a charge for illegal use of a firearm, follow the June 17 shooting in Charleston, South Carolina’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Roof has been charged with the murder of nine African-American individuals, and the attempted murder of an additional three.
Lynch explained that Roof is being charged at the federal level in addition to the regular state investigation due to the racially-charged and religiously-targeted nature of his act. “To carry out these twin goals of fanning racial flames and exacting revenge, Roof further decided to seek out and murder African Americans because of their race,” Lynch said, according to US News. “An essential element of his plan, however, was to find his victims inside of a church, specifically an African-American church, to ensure the greatest notoriety and attention to his actions.” South Carolina has no state hate crime law, deeming the federal response necessary.
The charge against Roof demonstrates that Lynch will not be soft on civil rights issues during her relatively brief time as Attorney General. Lynch assumed office during a period of heightened racial tension, with protests taking place across the nation against police brutality and the murders of people like Eric Garner and Michael Brown. From launching an investigation into the Baltimore police departments following the riots there earlier this year to her indictment of Roof, Lynch has already proved that civil rights will be a core tenet of her tenure as Attorney General.
Lynch has faced a great deal of difficulty in order to accomplish these feats. Obama nominated her for the position in November 2014, not long after Eric Holder announced his resignation. It then took the Republican-controlled Senate 166 days to approve her nomination, the longest waiting period for any nominee in the past 30 years. Although Lynch has sought to differentiate herself from Holder on some issues, she also vowed early on to continue his legacy of fighting for civil rights. “Few things have pained me more than reported tensions and division between law enforcement and the communities we serve,” Lynch said, according to U.S. News. “If confirmed as attorney general, one of my key priorities will be to work to strengthen the vital relationships of courageous law enforcement personnel in all the communities we serve.”
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The federal hate crime charges against Roof are not necessarily related to the problems between law enforcement and the African-American community, but it continues the Department of Justice’s overall campaign to ensure that racism will not be tolerated. Lynch has a lengthy history as a civil rights advocate, so the nation is better off for the fact that she’s able to hold office at least until January, 2017. Regardless of the outcome of the federal hate crime charges against Roof (which could be difficult to win despite overwhelming evidence of his racially-charged motives), the fact that Lynch is making the murder a civil rights issue is important. It’s an uneasy time for race relations in America, and the nation needs leaders that aren’t afraid to address the criminal problems that arise out of racial hatred. The U.S. may have a female, African-American Attorney General, but that doesn’t mean all the problems have been solved for either of those two historically underrepresented groups.
Image Source: ABC News