Holding White Men Accountable for Mass Shootings

whitemanThe topic of straight white male privilege and its role in shaping  US culture and policy are extremely important topics for disadvantaged others.  We continually live in a system where we have to basically beg and claw for our rights and fight to maintain what we’ve achieved. Then, there is the inevitable white male blowback that usually comes attached to some form of violence when the privileges of white males are threatened.  You can address this from a variety of viewpoints of out groups.  There is an extremely interesting op-ed up in WAPO by Charlotte Childress and Harriet Childress addressing the overwhelming evidence that spree, mass shooters that target strangers in this country are a white male phenomenon. It is also evident that the anti-gun safety and control agenda is dominated by white men.  What to do about this is difficult and even discussing the situation in policy terms is hard.

Nearly all of these kinds of  mass  shootings in this country in recent years — not just Newtown, Aurora, Fort Hood, Tucson and Columbine — have been committed by white men and boys. Yet when the National Rifle Association (NRA), led by white men, held a news conference after the Newtown massacre to advise Americans on how to reduce gun violence, its leaders’ opinions were widely discussed.

Unlike other groups, white men are not used to being singled out. So we expect that many of them will protest it is unfair if we talk about them. But our nation must correctly define their contribution to our problem of gun violence if it is to be solved.

When white men try to divert attention from gun control by talking about mental health issues, many people buy into the idea that the United States has a national mental health problem, or flawed systems with which to address those problems, and they think that is what produces mass shootings.

Each of us is programmed from childhood to believe that the top group of our hierarchies — and in the U.S. culture, that’s white men — represents everyone, so it can feel awkward, even ridiculous, when we try to call attention to those people as a distinct group and hold them accountable.

This op-ed will undoubtedly receive a lot of critical attention from the powers-that-be and from the anti-intellectual right.  Already, right wing sites--like Gate Way Pundit–are switching the conversation to inner city violence which is predominately black on black.  This, of course, misses the point of the article which is about specific mass shootings and associated weapons caches that are typical of the prepper movement and right wing militia movements that are predominately white male.  Also, pointing to the Virgina Tech shooter does not also rule out that these shooters are still predominately white male. The article was not about inner city gun violence.  It was about mass shooting of strangers in public places which is a lot like terrorists setting off bombs other places in the world.  It’s not personally aimed at any one.  This is one distinct form of spree shooting.

This societal and cultural programming makes it easy for conservative, white-male-led groups to convince the nation that an a-detail-of-a-drawing-by-robert-crumb_originalorganization led by white men, such as the NRA or the tea party movement, can represent the interests of the entire nation when, in fact, they predominately represent only their own experiences and perspectives.

If life were equitable, white male gun-rights advocates would face some serious questions to assess their degree of credibility and objectivity. We would expect them to explain:

What facets of white male culture create so many mass shootings?

Why are so many white men and boys producing and entertaining themselves with violent video games and other media?

Why do white men buy, sell and manufacture guns for profit; attend gun shows; and demonstrate for unrestricted gun access disproportionately more than people of other ethnicities or races?

Why are white male congressmen leading the fight against gun control?

I think these questions are worth discussing as is the overall topic.  I am sure there will be the usual backlash about poor, downtrodden, discriminated white men.  Also, the NRA will continue to deny that it basically behaves like a wing of the KKK or the America NAZI movement.  Afterall, we do know who still has all the power these days.

19 Comments on “Holding White Men Accountable for Mass Shootings”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    I have a lot of problems with that WaPo article. I much prefer Mark Ames’ political analysis. These shooters aren’t elite privileged white men–they tend to be powerless white men who have been bullied or targeted by other more powerful white men. Childress and Childress need to explain how the fact that the kinds of mass shootings were almost unheard of before Ronald Reagan fits into their theory.

    In the case of workplace shooters, they tend to target specific individuals who tortured them, not random strangers.

    There have been female mass shooters–Amy Bishop, for example, could be classified as a workplace shooter. There have been Asian and Latino mass shooters. Here’s a good article about that.

    And of course, a recent workplace shooter–Christopher Dorner–was African American.

    Certainly the white male privilege aspect needs to be address, but it should be in the context of the economic powerlessness that 90 percent of Americans have to deal with.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Jennifer San Marco shot six postal workers and killed herself in 2006.

    • dakinikat says:

      How much breakdown do they do of the various kinds of mass shooters? Do work place shooters or school place shooters need to be separate? The one question I had was the number of the white males that did this that also seem to have recently developed schizophrenia. Older schizophrenics haven’t usually gone on shooting sprees when they first presented. It does seem more recent but maybe it’s because of the assault weapons ban in the 90s? Did you check out the trash? We already got a knee jerk r/w rant in there.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I’m glad you didn’t let that comment through. Ugh!

        I agree that there are different types of mass shooters. School shooters tend to have been bullied or at least they feel victimized. Workplace shooters do too, but the tend to target the people who they feel have injured them, like Christopher Dornan. And then there are the shooters who go to malls and other places where there are lots of people.

        That’s an interesting point about people who have recently developed schizophrenia. Another point mentioned in one of the articles I linked to is that men commit most of the crime in our society to begin with.

        This is a very complex issue with lots of variables to consider. Plus there isn’t enough data yet, and of course no way to do a controlled study.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I forgot to mention the family annihilators–they are mass murders too, not always with guns. They are mostly men. Women who kill their families usually kill their children and maybe themselves.

    • dakinikat says:

      Also … revenge v. random spree killing … i think some of these guys think they should be getting the privilege but the ‘others’ have taken it from them through things like affirmative action. I think that anon spree killers v. work place revenge seekers are differently motivated.

    • janicen says:

      But they raise some excellent points about who is leading the discussion and who’s privileges are being protected. I also love their point about the distraction argument about solving the mental health treatment problems in this country. I have bristled about that bit of misdirection ever since the Newtown murders. Women and girls have mental health problems too that are being treated or mistreated exactly the same as men’s but the women aren’t mowing people down with automatic weapons. We can always find exceptions because there are so many guns in this country that one of the non-priveleged groups are going to get their hands on them once in a while, but it’s undeniable that the one group most identifiable as the culprits in this crisis are the white men. And to prove the Childresses right, I betcha a million that the next NRA spokesperson we see is going to be either female, African American, or both, because I think they hit on a nerve.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I agree, but one problem I have with this argument about “white men” is that it tends to sow division among the bottom 90 percent of Americans–which is what the elite classes always try to do.

        Not all white men are highly privileged. Yes, they may have power over women and that’s wrong; but you don’t see Wall Streeters committing mass shootings. They have much more efficient ways to exert their power and even kill people in less visible ways.

      • hyperjoy says:

        Even the poorest of white men have power and privilege over the women of their own race and class. They sow division themselves by their refusal to renounce/give up that power and privilege; women do not sow division by pointing it out.

    • janicen says:

      Yes, but. The gun culture exists and is allowed to exist because of white men. I have very little doubt that if African American men were shooting up white people in mass shootings, or if women were shooting men, major steps would be taken to limit the number and availability of guns. African Americans have plenty of guns but as long as they are killing each other with them, that’s all well and good with the white men of the NRA. As long as white men are doing the shooting, we won’t see any meaningful gun control legislation.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Here’s an interesting article on mass shooters I read awhile back: Shooting sprees start with women.

    • NW Luna says:

      It’s sad and ironic that if the bodies of wife, mother, girlfriend, mother, sister, and grandmother had been the sole discoveries at primary crime scenes, there would likely be much less national attention to the murders, which would blur into our statistics on domestic violence.

      Interesting article, BB.

  3. Luke Lea says:

    Here is some data and an explanation for why most serial killers at least are white men. I assume the same argument applies to mass killers as well. It may not be what you think:


    • dakinikat says:

      Thank you so much and welcome to skydancing! Happy to read the research!

    • janicen says:

      It looks like the data says that the reason there are more white serial killers than black serial killers is because the black ones are in jail because the black incarceration rate is high and the white incarceration rate is low. In other words, what’s wrong here is that we need to be putting more white men in prison along with all of the black men currently in prison, and there is nothing wrong about the fact that so many African American men become incarcerated.

      None of this had anything to do with bias, racism, repressive injustice, racial profiling, political repression or the economy. It was an inevitable consequence of underlying group criminality distributions.

      This is a ridiculous assumption based on flawed logic and what’s really wrong here is that anyone would believe this claptrap.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Hmmm… I haven’t gone to the link yet, but I don’t think I can buy that notion either.

  4. I am going to put this news item here on this thread because…well, you will see:
    Second Prosecutor Shot to Death in Texas County – NYTimes.com

    The chief prosecutor in a county just south of Dallas and his wife were found dead in their home on Saturday, two months after one of his assistant district attorneys was shot to death in a parking lot a block from his office.

    Local police and sheriff’s officers as well as F.B.I. agents deputies were investigating the deaths of the prosecutor, District Attorney Mike McLelland of Kaufman County, and his wife, Cynthia, said Lt. Justin Lewis of the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Department.

    Lieutenant Lewis said he could not discuss the investigation in further detail, including the nature of the couple’s deaths and whether the authorities believe they are linked to the Jan. 31 fatal shooting of the assistant district attorney, Mark Hasse.

    The Dallas Morning News reported that Police Chief Chris Aulbaugh said the McLellands had been shot in their home and that investigators were not discounting a connection to Mr. Hasse’s death.