On March 15, evil came to Christchurch, New Zealand in the form of Bretton Tarrant. This man, an Australian citizen fuelled by hate and racism, went on a rampage at two mosques – the Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Mosque – killing 49 innocent adults and children as they were praying.
As if that wasn’t evil enough, the twisted monster live-streamed the entire thing on Facebook and the video is destined to circulate on the darkest corners of the web until the heat-death of the universe.
Make no mistake: this was an act of undeniable evil and my heart goes out to all the families and friends of those whose lives have been irreversibly changed by this tragedy.
That said, this article isn’t about the shooting. Rather, it is about what caused it.
You see, Tarrant wasn’t created in a vaccum. Like all human beings, he is a product of some combination of nature and environment. While we will never know what he was truly thinking that fateful day, we can try and glean some idea as to what set him on this dark path.
As is the vogue with spree killers nowadays, Tarrant posted a manifesto before he committed his massacre. It contains the usual right-wing nonsense – white genocide is real, immigrants are evil, Muslims want to kill us all, etc. – along with some obscure internet references that will only be familiar to those unlucky few who are deep into online chat culture.
What’s really interesting is the people Tarrant cites as inspiration.
One of Tarrant’s biggest inspirations is none other than current US president Donald Trump, who he calls “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose”.
This is not a coincidence. Trump has become infamous for his blatant bigotry towards minorities and his love of violent dictators.
The foundation of his original presidential campaign was a racist conspiracy about Mexican immigrants and a desire to construct a giant wall across the southern border to keep out people who he referred to as “drug dealers and rapists”.
One of his first acts as US president was the illegal implementation of an immigrant ban barring people from Muslim-majority nations from entering the country.
He is on record saying “Islam hates us [the US]” and said that problems in the UK were because the country is “trying to disguise their massive Muslim problem”.
He has called on his supporters to commit violent acts against dissenters at his rallies while promising to pay their legal costs, he has stacked his administration with far-right Christian fundamentalists like Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo. He has called neo-Nazis “very fine people”, he has set up literal concentration camps for children and honestly the list could go on and on.
Trump took far-right dogwhistles and turned them into a megaphone cranked to 11. The US has had it’s own share of people like Tarrant going on murderous rampages after being encouraged by Trump’s rhetoric.
So why have I spent the last 500 or so words talking to you about all of this when it happened far away from us?
Because SA is starting to see similar behaviour in its own backyard. Julius Malema and the EFF have begun leaning heavily on anti-Indian racism, accusing them of undermining democracy and holding back Africans.
Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba has been caught spreading racist propaganda about immigrants, saying that they are infecting locals with disease.
And let’s not even get started on all the angry white people on social media trying to pretend they don’t want to bring apartheid back.
Thankfully, none of this has managed to escalate into a Christchurch-level incident yet, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. And the longer we as a society allow this behaviour to go unchallenged, the more likely [such incidents] become.
We as a community need to come together and collectively oppose this type of behaviour. Racism, like any bigotry, is not something that can be allowed to flourish if there is any hope of a peaceful, functioning country.
Despite what people like Tarrant want to believe, diversity isn’t a weakness. It is a strength and it is one worth fighting for.