White men to blame for mass US killings

Don’t point the fin­ger at Mex­i­cans and Mus­lims. And don’t blame shoot­ers’ moth­ers…

Pretoria News Weekend - - OPINION - YAS NECATI

WHEN­EVER there is a mass shoot­ing in the US we be­gin to de­bate as a so­ci­ety what the killer’s mo­ti­va­tions could have been. If he is brown or black there is a high chance that the tabloid press will cry “ter­ror­ist”.

Don­ald Trump will be­gin tweet­ing ra­bidly about how we should close US bor­ders to all (read: black or brown) im­mi­grants.

“The wall, the wall!”, his sup­port­ers will cry.

Bre­it­bert will re­lease an ar­ti­cle try­ing to con­vince us that ev­ery Mus­lim is a ter­ror­ist plot­ting to kill us all.

For the record, I come from a fam­ily of Mus­lim im­mi­grants, and I can con­firm that none of us are about to run off and join Isis (why do I even have to re­as­sure peo­ple of that?)

If the shooter is white, how­ever, it will be a dif­fer­ent story – poor, lonely, teased Amer­i­can guy had a men­tal health prob­lem.

He al­ways got good grades in school and, al­though he was quiet, no­body could have pos­si­bly imag­ined him do­ing such a thing, in­clud­ing his mum, part­ner, brother, un­cle, aunt, 12th cousin, nurs­ery teacher, baby sit­ter, the guy who bagged his gro­ceries in Wal­mart, the woman who sat in one lec­ture with him for a sin­gle term when he was at univer­sity, and the fam­ily who lived six streets away from him when he was in pri­mary school.

Be­cause, let us be hon­est, ev­ery one of these peo­ple and more will be in­ter­viewed to in­ves­ti­gate “what went wrong” with this un­for­tu­nate, men­tally ill, all-Amer­i­can, mid­dle class, white school boy.

Once again, white killers will be hu­man­ised and black or brown killers will be de­hu­man­ised.

But even many of those quick to point out this racism will look to other rea­sons why the shooter could have done what he did. Most of us on all sides of the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum in the UK frown on the US for its gun laws – and rightly so. Ev­ery time there is a mass shoot­ing, shares in gun com­pa­nies rise.

Most mass shoot­ers in US his­tory have bought their weapons legally and with­out re­stric­tion. It’s a dan­ger­ous in­dus­try, to say the least.

But it’s also not the root of the cause. We need only look to Switzer­land to dis­prove the the­ory that if peo­ple have eas­ier ac­cess to guns, they are more likely to kill oth­ers. It has one of the high­est rates of gun ownership in the world, but you wouldn’t think it (I didn’t know, un­til I started re­search on this ar­ti­cle).

When’s the last time you heard of a mass shoot­ing in Switzer­land? Not only does the coun­try have a low rate of firearm-re­lated deaths, but it fre­quently tops the list as one of the coun­tries with the world’s low­est crime rates.

It boils down to this: if you put a gun in front of me, I wouldn’t pick it up and shoot a load of peo­ple. If you put a gun in front of most peo­ple, they wouldn’t pick it up and shoot a load of peo­ple. So what makes some peo­ple com­mit mass shoot­ings – what is the com­mon fac­tor that con­nects all the peo­ple who’ve killed?

You might have no­ticed that through­out this piece I’ve been re­fer­ring to the mass shoot­ers as “he”. And that’s be­cause it’s not men­tal health, race, re­li­gion or guns that brings any of these shoot­ers to­gether – it’s gen­der.

In fact, in a study of 62 cases of US mass shoot­ings from 1982-2012, it was noted that only one shooter was a woman. All the oth­ers were men. Of these men, 44 out of 61 were white.

But if it has been proven that 98% of mass shoot­ing are com­mit­ted by men, why isn’t the me­dia ex­plod­ing with sto­ries about why men are to blame?

Why is Don­ald Trump blam­ing Mus­lims and Mex­i­cans, when the prob­lem here is clearly to do with gen­der above all else? Why are men so much more likely to kill oth­ers than women? And why are we not do­ing some­thing about it?

The truth is – women have been talk­ing about this for a long time. A few years ago, Janey Stephen­son wrote a piece about the link be­tween toxic mas­culin­ity and vi­o­lent at­tacks. Af­ter the Las Ve­gas shoot­ing, Rachael Revesz com­piled a list of mass shoot­ers, all men, all with a his­tory of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

Let’s not for­get that in the US it’s not just adults who are com­mit­ting these crimes – the youngest shooter in the above men­tioned study was Andrew Golden, who was just 11 years old when him and school friend Mitchell John­son, 13, killed five other chil­dren at their school. How could two peo­ple so young com­mit such an act? What would make them take that gun, and use it for mur­der?

In­deed, not only are most adult mass shoot­ers in the US men, but most school shoot­ers are boys too. And not only are many adult male shoot­ers per­pe­tra­tors of do­mes­tic or sex­ual vi­o­lence, but young boys can be too. A year be­fore him and Andrew Golden com­mit­ted their mass shoot­ing, 13-year-old Mitchell John­son was charged with mo­lest­ing a 3-year-old girl. The case was ex­punged be­cause of his age.

But as we’ve seen per­fectly il­lus­trated in the book We Need to Talk about Kevin, we’d sooner blame young boy’s mums than blame mas­culin­ity when it comes to point­ing fin­gers af­ter a mass shoot­ing. When Stephen Pad­dock mur­dered 58 peo­ple ear­lier this year, the me­dia, the pub­lic and the po­lice zoned in on his girl­friend Mar­ilou Dan­ley. It’s im­por­tant to note here that his brother, who has been paid less at­ten­tion, was ar­rested a few weeks ago on child pornog­ra­phy charges.

Un­for­tu­nately, we would rather peg blame onto a woman than ad­mit the un­com­fort­able truth that young men – par­tic­u­larly US-raised young men – are show­ing a trend of re­ally dis­turb­ing vi­o­lence. And we would rather blame guns, Isis and in­no­cent im­mi­grants just try­ing to set­tle some­where than face up to the facts: we have a prob­lem with men and boys and vi­o­lence, and it needs to be ad­dressed. – In­de­pen­dent UK


Crosses mark the graves of shoot­ing vic­tims near the First Bap­tist Church in Suther­land Springs, Texas. A man opened fire in­side the church on Sun­day, killing more than two dozen and in­jur­ing oth­ers.

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