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Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old suspect in the Charleston church shooting that left nine people dead, reportedly confessed to the crime, according to two law enforcement officials. During his confession, one of the officials said Roof told authorities he wanted to start a “race war.”

New details show just how deeply the racist killer was inspired by the white nationalist movement. After his arrest, friends and family have come forward to tell of Roof’s claims of involvement in racist groups, and the downward spiral fueled by white power music.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Roof’s family had grown concerned over the last two months as his racist views started to intensify. “He apparently told people that he was involved in groups, racist groups,” said a woman who identified herself as the mother of Roof’s former stepmother.

Scott Roof, who identified himself as Dylann Roof’s cousin, told The Intercept that “Dylann was normal until he started listening to that white power music stuff.”

White power music had provided the ideological ammunition for numerous acts of racist terror. In 2012, Wade Michael Page, a white power musician walked into another place of worship, a  Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, pulled out a nine-millimeter pistol and fatally shot six people and wounded four others before shooting himself.

For decades now, white power music has become both a leading recruiting tool and a significant revenue stream for white nationalists. Today white power music comes in a multitude of genres, from National Socialist Black Metal to Ku Klux Klan Country ballads. It may be packaged differently, but the message is the same: hatred of people of color, Jews, Muslims, immigrants, and the LGBT community; exhortations to violence and even glorification of genocide.

For more background on white power music, check out Soundtracks to the White Revolution: White Supremacist Assaults on Youth Music Subcultures. And for ways young people, parents, teachers, and music professionals can respond, please read The Turn it Down Resource Kit.


Devin Burghart

Author Devin Burghart

is vice president of IREHR. He coordinates our Seattle office, directs our research efforts, and manages our online communications. He has researched, written, and organized on virtually all facets of contemporary white nationalism since 1992, and is internationally recognized for this effort. Devin is frequently quoted as an expert by print, broadcast, and online media outlets. In 2007, he was awarded a Petra Foundation fellowship. more...

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