(Salon) – In the days since Dylann Roof murdered nine people, all African-American, in a church in South Carolina, the national conversation has largely concentrated on how the young killer’s actions fell neatly into a long pattern of American history. And that’s been a good thing; the history is long, bloody, shameful and too often ignored.
However, as the Southern Poverty Law Center’s J. Richard Cohen and Morris Dees wrote in a Monday Op-Ed for the New York Times, there’s another element of Dylann Roof’s story that we must not ignore. Because just as much as Roof is a product of America’s past, he is also the result of distinctively modern forces. Namely, the large, multinational and influential “white nationalist” movement that is bringing together white supremacists from all over the world — and which is not going away any time soon.
Recently, Salon spoke over the phone with Cohen to discuss his Op-Ed, Roof’s white nationalist leanings, and why there’s reason to believe that white supremacist violence may be a bigger threat in the future than many of us assume. Our conversation is below and has been edited for clarity and length.