Dylann Roof: Explaining the racist Rhodesia, South African apartheid flags he is seen wearing

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The flags stitched onto Dylann Roof’s coat in his Facebook photo are remnants of racist institutions in Zimbabwe and South Africa and speak to the reported motivation behind his decision to murder nine people at a church in Charleston.

The flags can be seen in a photo on Roof’s Facebook page – the 21-year-old with a mushroom cut and grim look on his face stands in front of a swamp. On his black coat are three logos – two of which have been identified as apartheid-era flags.

The green flag on the right breast of Roof’s coat is the flag of Rhodesia, the former name of Zimbabwe when it was ruled by the white minority. The short-lived state was founded in 1965 and sparked the beginning of a bloody civil war which ended in 1979.

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READ MORE: What we know about Charleston church shooting suspect Dylann Roof

The other flag, worn above the Rhodesian flag in the photo of Roof, is that of apartheid-era South Africa.

Apartheid was the official term for a system of racial segregation in South Africa that lasted until 1991, the same year Nelson Mandela was elected president.

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Interracial marriage was banned under apartheid and the government also required blacks, who were the majority in the country, to carry identification.

The shooting targeted the predominantly black Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina where the pastors have a long history of fighting racial discrimination.

The shooting is being investigated as a hate crime and according to NBC News he spewed racial epithets before he began shooting.

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There are 19 recognized hate groups in South Carolina, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SLPC) – 18 of which are some form of white supremacist.  The law center considers most to be “neo-confederate,” that have historically opposed desegregation.

The SLPC counted 784 active hate groups in the United States in 2014, the second annual decline, but still significantly higher than the low of 457 in 1999.

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