Dylann Roof, the gunman, who murdered nine African Americans in a Charleston, S.C. church, was evidently a racist and a white supremacist. Before shooting his victims, he shouted to the congregation of largely black parishioners, "You rape our women and are taking over our country."
Of course, the people he was addressing were not rapists, nor were they "taking over the country." The latter reference was evidently to a black president. But what his accusation illustrates is the thought process behind all forms of racism -- the lumping together of all people of a particular race into one undifferentiated whole. In other words, his fallacy was not discrimination, but a failure to discriminate between different members of the same race. The essence of racism is collectivism. The antidote to racism is individualism -- the recognition of people as individuals with individual rights.
But observe that individualism is a minority viewpoint in our society. Collectivism is the dominant political philosophy. It is not individual lives but black lives that matter. It is not individual rights that are important, but women's rights or workers' rights or civil rights (meaning the rights of certain ethnic groups). We no longer think of people as individuals but as members of various collectives.
Consider, for example, how politicians campaign for votes. They appeal to collectives of voters -- e.g., to blacks or Hispanics or women or millennials or workers or labor unions, or the middle class or the poor. Grouping people together into classes for various social and political purposes is part of the national psyche. Is it altogether surprising then that murderous thugs like Dylann Roof should have embraced a similar mode of thinking in response to what they perceive (however perversely) as an injustice?
Roof had said that he wanted a race war -- a war between two racial collectives. As horrifying as that is, it is not radically different from the kind of polite warfare that our country engages in on a regular basis -- the perfectly "civil" war that takes place every election between those seeking the votes of the "middle class" (whoever they are) against the "upper class" (whoever exactly they are), the votes of women (against whom? -- the men?), or the votes of labor against those of business.
Nor is it radically different from the racial preferences accorded minority students with poorer grades and test scores over allegedly non-minority students with better grades and test scores. And who exactly are these "minority" students? Who are the racial minorities given preferential treatment? Well, it's commonly thought that they are any who are non-white. But observe that white students are given academic preference over Asians, a non-white minority. So whether someone is a member of a racial or ethnic minority that deserves preferential treatment depends not on their status as a minority group, but only on whether they are members of an under-performing group -- minority or non-minority. The more successful the group, the less preference they receive. Failure is rewarded; success is penalized.
What is missing in all of this? The failure to treat people as individuals with individual rights and individual accomplishments rather than as members of an underperforming and needy collective. We are awash in racist egalitarianism, yet it is a racism that is rarely acknowledged, much less condemned. Is it any wonder then that angry young men like Dylann Roof harbor the same racially collective mind set, even if it is one that is far more destructive? They are simply products of a larger society that is lawfully promoting the very disease that has metastasized into its most lethal and dangerous variant.