Researchers Charlotte and Harriet Childress write in WaPo that “White men have much to discuss about mass shootings.”
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.
But women and girls with mental health issues are not picking up semiautomatic weapons and shooting schoolchildren. Immigrants with mental health issues are not committing mass shootings in malls and movie theaters. Latinos with mental health issues are not continually killing groups of strangers.
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.
I understand serial killers are nearly always white men, too. Yes, gun violence is perpetrated by other racial groups in the U.S. But in the U.S., the particular phenomena of mass and serial killings are disproportionately carried out by white men, even though non-whites are disproportionately responsible for homicides overall. See, for example:
Michael Kimmel and Cliff Leek, “The Unbearable Whiteness of Suicide-by-Mass-Murder”
Erika Christakis, The Overwhelming Maleness of Mass Homicide
David Sirota makes the point that with all the calls to profile this or that group to prevent terrorism, the one group not allowed to be profiled is white men.
I agree with the researchers that it’s high time we all acknowledge this. I disagree with them that the perspectives of white men themselves are not credible –
Nearly all of the 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.
The NRA lacks credibility because it has a vested interest in stopping gun control legislation, not because their leadership is mostly white men. Since most white men are not mass/serial killers, I welcome their insight into this phenomenon, especially into the question asked by the researchers, “What facets of white male culture create so many mass shootings?” I have my own ideas, but not being a man I might be missing something.
Update: Steve M, who I know for a fact is a white guy, has an interesting perspective:
… mass shooters, for the most part, aren’t the alpha males within their own culture, even though most come from America’s alpha race.
And maybe that’s the problem. If you’re white and male (and middle- or upper-middle-class), the culture tells you that you can have it all. If you’re white, male, and developing paranoid schizophrenia, or having profound difficulties with socialization, you’re falling short of very, very high expectations. Why aren’t you thriving? You’re a person who’s supposed to be thriving! Everyone in your demographic category can thrive!
Young American males of other ethnicities are conditioned to expect disappointment in life. White suburban males are led to believe that the world is their oyster. Maybe it’s falling short of these high cultural expectations that attracts a certain percentage of socially struggling white males to fantasies of violent revenge. They want to kill because they’re expected to dominate, and this is the only way they know how.
That makes sense to me.