What Is Up With White Men and Mass Shootings?
Data and History have a lot to say...
This story has been updated following the recent 2019 Mass Shootings.
I am going to come out and address the proverbial elephant in the mass shooting room: what is up with all of the White guys committing mass shootings?
Of all of the mass shootings that have occurred since 1982 up until this year, 64 percent of them were committed by one group; White men. Well over half. That figure alone makes me wonder, what is it about white men and boys and mass shootings? What is it about these males that make them susceptible to such vicious and brutal acts of violence, more so than any other group?
A lot of people have a lot of theories. Some blame drugs. Some blame violent video games. Some say that it is a mental health crisis.
I beg to differ. This isn't a mental health crisis. If it were, there would be way more violence, and the perpetrators of said violence would vary and be wide-ranging since people of all ages, genders, belief systems, and ethnicities suffer mental health crises.
And drugs? Really? When communities of color have long been plagued by drugs, yet the number of mass shootings committed by Black men stands at 19 percent, while Latino men stand at 10 percent, and Asian men stand at 8 percent. Still too high, but nowhere near their White counterparts.
No. I think there is something deeper and far more sinister.
Now before we start, I am going to say this: the majority of White men don't want to kill anybody. Just like anybody else. No, you don't have to go fearing for your lives. No, you don't have to go hiding from your coworkers. Odds are you will not run into a mass murderer tomorrow or (prayerfully) any other day.
But it is very interesting that of all mass murderer's, White Men make up the over HALF of the perpetrators. Why?
Spoiler alert: I think it's toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity is defined as "a narrow and repressive description of manhood, designating manhood as defined by violence, sex, status, and aggression. It's the cultural ideal of manliness, where strength is everything, while emotions are a weakness; where sex and brutality are yardsticks by which men are measured, while supposedly "feminine" traits—which can range from emotional vulnerability to simply not being hyper-sexual—are the means by which your status as "man" can be taken away."
Toxic masculinity, in essence, is all of the gross ways we as a culture have come to define manhood. Oversexed, angry, aggressive, violent.
You can see where this is going, right? But toxic masculinity can affect men of all ethnicities.
Along with easy access to guns, another, less discussed element to all of this is entitlement. And I'm not the only one who thinks so, there are entire bodies of study that agree, including a study done by Eric Madfis that concludes that:
"… the triple privileges of white heterosexual masculinity, which make subsequent life course losses more unexpected, and thus more painfully shameful, ultimately buckle under the failures of downward mobility, and result in a final cumulative act of violence to stave off subordinated masculinity."
Or in other words, when kids like the 17-year-old student of Santa Fe High school get repeatedly turned down for a romantic relationship with a fellow classmate, rather than taking the "L", he would rather take the lives of 10 people, physically injure 18, and emotionally harm an entire community in order to save face. Because how dare this young woman, who he did murder, reject him (who will not be named or glorified here with good reason).
Same for the man in Toronto who blamed being an "involuntary celibate" or "incel" on no woman wanting so sleep with him, and thus decided to mow down a group of women walking around with his van. Because how dare women.
Toxic masculinity along with entitlement make for very dangerous conditions.
Most data collected begins in 1982. But being a person of color, particularly African American, I have within my DNA, the horror stories of some of the most deplorable violence faced in this nation's history, and can find their roots in both toxic masculinity and entitlement.
The violence of White Men comes as no surprise to Black folk. Slavery itself was brutal and monstrous enough to prove that. Antebellum white men weren't exactly recording their violence and brutality against people that were only considered 3/5ths of a human being.
But even following abolition, there are plenty of examples of White brutality against Black people.
Whether it's the Charleston Church shooting (where nine souls were lost following a prayer meeting), the Tulsa race riot and bombing of Black Wall Street (where in 1921 an estimated 250 Black people were murdered while 8000 were left homeless), The Elaine massacre (where in 1919, 249 Black people were killed for simply protesting poor wages), The Colfax massacre (where in 1873 a militia of White Men murdered at least 150 unarmed Black men, women, and children), the 1864 Fort Pillow massacre in Tennessee (when Confederate troops slew 164 black soldiers who were surrendering, which counts as a war crime), the same for 1864 Saltville Massacre in Virginia (where confederates murdered wounded unnumbered Black soldiers), or the Rosewood massacre (where, in 1923, a white woman lied about a Black Man raping her, which resulted in the murder of as many as 150, but the official count is six), or the state sanctioned murder of Black people, mostly unarmed, by police officers, or walking into a Waffle house on a weekend and killing four people of color; for Black people, violent white men are nothing new.
White men killing each other en masse here in the US, however, is. Many folks point to the Sandy Hook massacre of young children and teachers as to where they thought the tide would turn. People of color included. We saw the murder of those little children and their teachers in a peaceful and affluent small town, and thought there is no way the NRA or gun enthusiasts will survive this.
That was years ago.
Since then, there have been over 2175 mass shootings.
The US makes up only about 4.4 percent of the world's population, but has 42 percent of the world's civilian-owned guns. And not one new law has been created by this new administration, in fact, laws that were in place were repealed, making it easier for people to get their hands on guns.
In addition to all of this, quiet as it's kept, there are younger white men and boys being radicalized by homegrown terrorist groups than any other terrorist groups abroad. J.M. Berger's study on terrorism published in 2016 found that white nationalists recruited far more people than their Islamic counterparts, saying
"On Twitter, ISIS's preferred social platform, American white nationalist movements have seen their followers grow by more than 600 percent since 2012. Today, they outperform ISIS in nearly every social metric, from follower counts to tweets per day."
These radicalizations fueled some of the most violent mass shootings, such as the Charleston, Pittsburgh, and El Paso shootings.
However, these radicalized young men still do not account for the majority of White male mass murderers throughout history. Many, unfortunately, don't have a motive beyond pure violence, and inflicting great sorrow and terror on the community and country.
After reading through all of the research, the data, and studies, I feel no closer to an answer that would satisfy me.
But I think that's the point. I cannot fathom taking a weapon and "punishing" someone by taking their life from them. I don't feel entitled to take someone's life, let alone mass groups of people.
Most of the people I know, including White men, are the same way. We really cannot wrap our minds around the humanity one must lose in order to take a gun into an office, a movie theatre, a concert, a synagogue, a mosque, a festival, a church, or a school, and one-by-one take people's lives.
But that's the point where we should be. Nothing should satisfy us. Nothing should make us feel any better by these violent acts of terror, no matter who is committing them.
We should be outraged. We should be indignant. And we should take that indignation, that passion for peace in our streets, our communities, and especially our schools, and use that as the bridge over all that is set up to divide us, and say to our leaders, our government, and any bodies that would blame these violent acts on anything other than easy access to the most destructive weapons in human history, that we have had enough, and that it is time for some hard talks and real, tangible change.
This post is an excerpt from The Reclaimed Blog original post.