Just a Guy: How Whiteness Fuels Terror

For white men, acts of extreme violence are ubiquitous, they are normalized, and they are celebrated.  This makes sense in a country where we read perpetrating genocide as brave.  This ideology trickles down to individuals, loading them like weapons and unleashing them in a world full of potential victims.

A 64-year-old white man, retired from gainful employment, living in a retirement community sprayed a country music concert with automatic rifle fire, killing 59 and injuring more than 500 people. The news is describing him as nondescript.  Retired detectives and police chiefs clog up the pundits’ chair in cable news, assuring us there is nothing about this man that would cause suspicion. His brother, at a lost to shed any light on his motives, calls him, “Just a guy.” This guy had 34 guns.  He had ammonium nitrate, often used in bombmaking, in his car.  He had tannerite, another explosive material in his home. This is not like any guy I know.

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A round-up of news reporting from the left and the right details the methodical attack, they describe a killer that planned from his room for days while he brought guns in in no less than 10 pieces of luggage and conclude with “we can’t know why he did it.”  Some are already asking about his mental health, his Asian girlfriend.  Everyone is looking at everything but his whiteness.  He’s not crazy, he is living out the tenets of whiteness.

Across the internet, good writers of conscience are pointing out that white men are the primary perpetrators of terror in America.  Facts.  Authorities claim we need more information to know what motivated him.  But do we? White supremacy is at the heart of the “lone wolf” terror attacks perpetrated by white men in America.  This is not just about avowed Nazis and the alt-right.  The ideas central to whiteness are contributing factors to rising violence in our country.  It’s not just that white privilege allows the shooter to face fewer consequences or receive better media coverage.  Before the first victim is harmed, these ideas central to white supremacy encourage and embolden evil men to rain terror, yes terror, on America. Whatever we find in the coming days and hours, these ideas, central to whiteness in America are contributing factors

GettyImages-2669226-E.jpgIndividualism

The myth of America is centered on the rugged individual. The narrative of white supremacy erases the contributions of people of color and centers the cis white male at the center of every story. Taking the law into one’s own hands, ignoring the rights of others and doing whatever you want whenever you want even if it results in genocide or homicide is totally acceptable. Davey Crocket, John Wayne, Batman–all lone wolves celebrated for doing what they think is right, no matter what the natives thought.  The focus in America on the individual instead of the community encourages extremists to think they have every right to willfully affect the lives of many others.  Recall when Trump “boasted he and he alone” could fix America.  Can you remember the last time a Superhero held a town hall to make sure everyone was heard before deciding on a course of action?

8a01c503df8d5625f7be3a6ac78d58cc--gender-issues-social-justice.jpgToxic masculinity

This (country) is a man’s world. America has any number of problems related to our outdated ideas about men–rape culture, the wage gap and massive numbers of domestic violence to name a few.  Toxic masculinity tells us boys don’t cry and men don’t show emotions.  Men who are unable to navigate their emotional response to a changing world are acting out that anger. Not only are men engaging in toxic masculinity as individuals, but that anger is being stoked nationally by our Angry White-Guy-in-Cheif and results, time after time, in violent attacks: think Charlottesville, think post-election violence. America has long encouraged its men to solve problems with violence instead of diplomacy. And they do.  According to the Washington Post, all but three of the mass shootings since 1966 have been perpetrated by men.

NEIJKFnIjoyVMO_1_a.jpgWhite Violence As Solution

White supremacy is enforced with violence.  Slaves didn’t remain enslaved because they wanted to.  Lynchings weren’t suicides. Civil rights leaders didn’t shoot themselves.  Native Americans,  Japanese Americans, women–anytime someone steps out of line, white supremacy claps back with violence.  Those in power use violence to maintain it.  Even in the movies, your white savior kills his way to peace–Mission Impossible, Die Hard, Every Cop Movie.  The message is clear: violence is your birthright. For white men, acts of extreme violence are ubiquitous, they are normalized, and they are celebrated. Trump’s easy assertions that he will wipe North Korea off the map is so what less than alarming, dismissed as bravado.   This makes sense in a country where we read perpetrating genocide as brave.  This ideology trickles down to individuals, loading them like weapons and unleashing them in a world full of potential victims.

t-caroline-taylor-mar-a-lago-donald-trump-florida-hotel.jpgEntitlement to Excess

Mexicans are taking your jobs.  Black men are taking your women. Chinese are taking everything else–these complaints, the Mein Kamph of whiteness is the story fueling white anger.  The idea sometimes unspoken is that whiteness believes it is entitled to all the jobs, all the women and everything else that life has to offer in an endless individualized pursuit to conquer happiness.   Want to put countless mom and pop shops out of business to build an empire?  Sure. Want 5 houses and 10 cars? You got that.  Want a team of humans to dedicate their lives to serving you? Coming right up, sir.

If you can take what you want in life then certainly you can do the same in death. Stockpiling guns, collecting the highest body count and a dream of going out in a blaze of glory isn’t typical behavior for the mentally ill, it is a disease of entitlement. Entitlement is believing it is your right as a hypermasculine rugged individual to take the lives of as many people in the pursuit of your own end as you like.

WebThese ideas are not the markers of mental illness, these are ideological positions: beliefs and values at the heart of white supremacy.  It is the pathology of a culture, not the pathology of the individual that stokes this violence.  The skewed news coverage and the claims that he is mentally ill are a dodge to avoid deeper examination of whiteness, the culture that spawns such killings.

If this had been a Muslim shooter, airwaves would have been filled with pundits debating “radical terror”.  Instead, we are focusing on the uplifting stories of people helping people.  While these stories celebrating the heroism of first responders make us feel better, and rightfully so, we also need to take the time for honest critique. Until we start calling our own homegrown terror out, we will face more mass shootings.  So let’s call it out, let’s fill the airwaves and your social media feed with a deeper examination of the dangerous ideas of whiteness.  Let’s identify terrorists no matter their color.  Let’s critique ideology, no matter the origin, so we can all be a little safer.

 

 

2016 Terror Attack!!

The language and framing of the Oregon standoff case shows again the huge disparity in not only how we talk about protest, violence and terrorism, but how we as a nation think about these things.

Someone forget to rest the chill button for 2016.  Just few days into the new year we have a terrorist attack right here in America, and what’s worse, there seems to be some sort of news blackout going on. What’s the haps?!

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is that….?

Here’s the scoop:

On Saturday afternoon about 300 Muslims gathered to protest government abuse.  After a peaceful march, a splinter group of jihadists–some known to police and the FBI for previous radical activities–broke off to head to a federal airport.  They occupied a local federal building-an empty airport terminal-and reports of 15-150 people with an unknown quantity of guns have said thy are now prepared to hold the airport hostage for “years.” One of the leaders involved told a reporter they are willing to “kill and be killed” in the name of Allah.

Wait, no that’s all wrong. There is no armed muslim extremist group holding federal land.  Besides, if there was, would Fox news be referring to them as Patriots? Hell no.

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hold on a sec.

On Saturday afternoon about 300 Black Lives matter protesters gathered to protest police brutality.  After a peaceful march, a splinter group of BLM leaders–some known to police and the FBI for previous standoff in Baltimore–broke off to head to a federal courthouse closed for the holidays.  They occupied a local federal building-the courthouse-and reports of 15-150 people with an unknown quantity of guns have said thy are now prepared to the courthouse  for “years.” One of the leaders involved  told a reporter they are willing to “kill and be killed.”

Oh, wait, totally wrong again.  Despite many, many protests in support of the movement for Black Lives, no part of the movement has staged an armed takeover.  No leader of the movement has advocated kill or be killed. Fox called them Anarchists.  I call them citizens acting within their constitutional right.

Here’s the real story:

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yeah, this ones real

On Saturday afternoon about 300 people gathered to protest government abuse.  After a peaceful march, a splinter group of militia leaders–some known to police and the FBI for a previous standoff on the Clive Bundy ranch–broke off to head to a federal wildlife preserve.  They occupied a local federal building on the preserve and reports of 15-150 people with an unknown quantity of guns have said thy are now prepared to occupy the preserve for “years.” One of the leaders involved, Ryan Bundy, told a reporter they are willing to “kill and be killed.” Despite the fact that an armed militant group has taken over federal property, listed demands, and is holding territory with weapons, no law enforcement has engaged with–or even driven out to monitor more closely the movements of the armed militants.

Yes, that story is correct.  Now check out story 1 and story 2:  can you imagine them ending with police falling back?  would this ever happen?

Despite the fact that armed jihadists have taken over federal property, listed demands, and are holding territory with weapons, no law enforcement has engaged with–or even driven out to monitor more closely the movements of the extremists.

Or this?

Despite the fact that  armed Black radicals have taken over federal property, listed demands, and are holding territory with weapons, no law enforcement has engaged with–or even driven out to monitor more closely the movements of the armed radicals.

Nope, never going to happen.  The language and framing of the Oregon standoff case shows again the huge disparity in not only how we talk about protest, violence and terrorism, but how we as a nation think about these things. It is not just the way one group is treated, but the differential in validation, blame and punishment between groups where modern racism is at its most visible.oregon-under-attack-armed-militia-takeover-government-building.jpg

Apologists for the Oregon armed invaders are already lining up to minimize, deflect and defend. They are quick to point out that there is no looting. No looting?  Don forget the deamnds.  These “protesters” are demanding the federal government give them  federal land–how’s that for looting?

Stay tuned.