Violent ideology doesn't distinguish between hatred towards a race or religion. What makes this dangerous, and what does that mean for the future of anti-semitism and Islamophobia?
You can read the 74-page manifesto written by the Christchurch mosque shooter, but that’s what he wants you to do. It’s impossible to separate the misdirection from the trolling, from the lies. It’s a work of fiction, and you’re not likely to learn much about the root of white supremacy.
But another letter written by a white supremacist murderer provides a much clearer window into the mind of a person that carries out racist violence. Unlike the Christchurch killer, he did not intend for the general public, or even a coven of Internet trolls on 8chan, to read what he wrote.
“To my brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ our savior and Lord, my name is John D. Carothers and I believe the Bible is about white people and for white people,” Carothers wrote from prison to a white supremacist group, from which he also requested a study bible.
“I am in Rutherford County Jail for burning a black man. I set him on fire with lighter fluid poured on his head.”
Carothers, 53, a white American man from Tennessee, burned a black man to death on March 17, 2018, pouring lighter fluid on him while he slept. His victim, Robert Miller, 40, was a person under the care of Carrothers, who was then working as a home health aide at a veterans’ residence in Murfreesboro, a town outside Nashville.
Miller died from his burns ten days later.
When he first committed the crime, Carothers act of violence seemed to lack a motive. Once the letter was intercepted by authorities, the story garnered a brief flash of attention, as the horrific act gained a wider, even more, disturbing meaning.
Although crudely composed, Carothers’ letter provides a startlingly simple calculus for white supremacist thought. The Bible is “about white people and for white people.”
The Christchurch killer included in his manifesto provocative statements about “reclaiming” Istanbul for Christians. But we should consider those messages as deliberate attempts at incitement, repackaging of “Deus Vult” crusader memes that titillate the chan crowd with a twisted, atavistic sense of belonging online.
Carothers, however, was not seeking to broadcast his white supremacist views. A detective unsealed his letter and read it to a court considering his sentence. Prosecutors expressed their revulsion at the racism behind the murder. The churn of the local and national news cycle swallowed the story.
Nevertheless, Carothers’ letter remains as a reminder of the link between religion and racism that underpins white nationalist movements across the world. Even those that don’t embrace Christianity, or reject it outright, can justify Islamophobia or antisemitism as necessary to ‘preserve’ Christian culture.
And this phenomenon is not limited to those who would see Christianity through the lens of white supremacy. Fair-skinned Israeli settlers in the West Bank will hurl racist slurs (“N---rs don’t expel Jews”) even at Ethiopian Israeli soldiers who try to evict them from their illegal outposts.
People of colour who travelled to Syria to join Daesh were not welcome to join the top ranks of that nihilistic terrorist enterprise. Some of them found themselves cleaning latrines, and quickly found a reason to regret their decision.
There is a pattern here, one far clearer than anything the Christchurch manifesto offers. The most violent and ruthless ideologies combine hatred of other races with hatred of other religions. What makes these ideologies so dangerous is that they demand allegiance from their adherents’ skin colour and soul at the same time. Indeed, they fuse physical traits and the spiritual together.
What that means for people infected by these ideologies is that there’s no way out. Their skin becomes not just their uniform, but also their soul.
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