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How Many Other Dylann Roofs Are Out There?

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Dylann Storm Roof

Dylann Roof callously told police that he murdered nine innocent black people in cold blood inside a Charleston, South Carolina church because he wanted to start a race war.

Roof is racist, sociopathic, and unapologetic –a chilling combination. He is a self-appointed soldier in his own twisted campaign against African-Americans.

While a racist website connected to Roof surfaced over the weekend, white supremacy is an uncomfortable topic that many people don’t want to discuss in polite company. But here’s a painful truth: There are more armed white supremacists roaming the country who think like Roof than we care to admit.

Inside the Emanuel AME Church last week, Roof, 21, told one victim who pleaded for his life: “No, you’ve raped our women, and you are taking over the country … I have to do what I have to do.”

Roof’s roommate told ABC News that Roof was “big into segregation.” And the Berkeley County, South Carolina, government tweeted a picture of him in a jacket with flags from apartheid-era South Africa.

Roof, 21, is demented and has been obsessed with hating black people for years. And he’s not alone.

While some may dismiss Roof’s actions as isolated because he’s a “troubled” young man, the murders beg this question: How many more white supremacists are waiting to follow in Roof’s footsteps? How many gun-wielding “patriots” are privately cheering for Roof? And what can America do to suppress these domestic terrorists?

I’m not an alarmist, but I do pay close attention to research and facts, and here are some truths that I find troubling: The Southern Poverty Law Center, which researches U.S. hate groups, said there are 19 hate groups in South Carolina – 874 nationwide — and says hate groups have increased significantly across the country since President Barack Obama was elected to the White House in 2008.

“While mainstream news outlets rush to explain away the behavior of Dylann Roof, we must not refrain from talking about the obvious racial motivations from a white man who articulated those intentions as he reloaded,” Advancement Project Co-Director Judith Browne Dianis, said in a statement. “We must call racism and White supremacy what it is, and continue the work toward dismantling all forms of discrimination in our society.”

Friends said Roof had complained that “blacks were taking over the world” and Joey Meek, a former friend who reconnected with Roof a few weeks ago, told The Wall Street Journal that while they got drunk on vodka, Roof said that “someone needed to do something about it for the white race.”

While Roof is the current poster child for white supremacy, I was gratified to see a multi-racial gathering of Charleston residents – blacks, whites and Hispanics — coming together inside Emanuel AME Church on Sunday to mourn the deaths of those who were killed and comfort those who were directly impacted.

And even in the midst of unspeakable tragedy, African-Americans are a forgiving people. In court on Friday, during Roof’s arraignment, the families of Roof’s victims continued to embrace their faith.

“I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you,” a daughter of victim Ethel Lance said during the arraignment hearing “And have mercy on your soul. You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people but God forgives you, and I forgive you.”

Meanwhile, last week’s church shooting in Charleston has also renewed calls for officials to remove the Confederate battle flag in front of the state Capitol. Today, the flag also symbolizes racial violence. Roof was driving a car with the Confederate flag symbol on the license plate.

“At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries,” President Obama said last week. “It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency.  And it is in our power to do something about it.”

Here’s one possible deterrent:  South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley – who finally showed some backbone – said she will seek the death penalty against Roof.

What do you think?