At this point in time it’s difficult to open a social media page, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, or another mode of public communication and not see the issue of race in America front and center. Angry rants are permeating just about every level of society, even if you are one of those exhausted citizens who prefers to avoid politics altogether. The topic is relentlessly featured online, in the news, and in everyday life — there’s no escaping it.
MTV is about to air a documentary on “white privilege” featuring young, white Americans who are ashamed of their history.
President Barack Obama stated recently that racism is embedded in the DNA of Americans.
Senator Bernie Sanders, who is challenging former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic nomination, wants to make a collective American apology for slavery a pillar of his presidency, should he win the office.
And so on.
Before continuing, I’d like to state that I rarely discuss racial issues on this site. I find them inflammatory and frustrating because they are politicized to no end from all directions. Whenever brought up, race is almost always to get someone agitated or feeling victimized — and it never betters anyone. Having said that, I need to address an aggressive line of attack being pushed by some in the social justice movement because I worry it will not end well if it keeps up without a proper response.
A common accusation I see with alarming frequency insists that “white” perpetrators of mass shootings or terrorist attacks are immediately given cover by being labeled as “mentally ill” instead of adhering to an ideology or taking part in a conspiratorial network. This was the case on July 17 after 24-year old Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, a naturalized US citizen from Kuwait, fired on a military recruitment office and a naval base in Chattanooga, killing four Marines and a sailor in an attack that has been classified as terrorism. Erroneous initial witness reports described him as a white male, and Twitter went ballistic right before the truth came out.
The notion these activists are concerned about is quite ugly: American press and law enforcement agencies are either deliberately or unconsciously embracing white supremacy. From the child-butchering Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary School to the Tucson assassin Jared Loughner — who failed to kill Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords but managed to slaughter five bystanders and a judge — they are convinced white killers get away with a description other races are not afforded, which subsequently spares whites any shame. Worse still, according to these folks, the same journalists and officials are quick to refer to black offenders as “thugs” and Muslim offenders as “terrorists”.
But is this true? If some of the most infamous mass shootings and terrorist attacks committed by non-whites are examined — or even just glanced over — the insistence that only white perpetrators are privileged with a “mental illness” label actually falls apart rather spectacularly. Below are some examples:
On April 16, 2007 23-year old college student Seung-Hui Cho shot up Virginia Tech University, massacring 32 people and injuring dozens more. The Korean immigrant was declared by investigators and the media to be severely mental ill, with focus remaining on his mental health to this day. This mass shooting is considered to be the worst in American history.
On April 3, 2009, a Vietnamese immigrant, Jiverly Wong, killed 13 people at an immigration office in Binghamton, New York. Mental illness was strongly considered as a factor by both media and law enforcement officials.
On November 7, 2009, Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan shot and killed 13 people (14, if an unborn baby is included) and maimed more than 30 others at Fort Hood in Texas. Although unavoidable scrutiny was placed on his email correspondence with a known Al-Qaeda leader and alleged jihadist slogans he shouted while carrying out the killings, many media outlets played on a mental illness angle in the attack and speculated it could have been the result of stress and fear over an upcoming deployment overseas. The US Government ended up classifying the incident as “workplace violence”, something that stunned and angered victims and more than a few observers.
On November 29, 2009, Maurice Clemmons, a black man, assassinated four police officers outside of Seattle, Washington before being shot dead by another officer two days later. The specter of his mental health was raised in the media on multiple occasions.
On April 2, 2012, former nursing student One Goh opened fire at Oikos University in Oakland, California, leaving 7 people dead and several injured. Goh, who is of Korean heritage like Seung-Hui Cho, was deemed mentally ill and unfit for trial.
On September 17, 2013, contractor Aaron Alexis stormed the Washington DC Navy Yard and killed 12 people. Alexis, who was black, was repeatedly described as having suffered from severe mental illness. Some media outlets even expressed a sympathetic take on his mental anguish, while a portrait of a man who was deeply angry at the United States also emerged.
On June 7, 2014, John Zawahiri went on a rampage in Santa Monica, California that ended up claiming four lives. Zawahiri, who came from an Arab/Christian background, was previously hospitalized for mental illness. His predicament was emphasized throughout the media and by investigators.
There are other examples that dispute the idea of non-whites or Muslims being unfairly demonized as groups over the murderous actions of one individual that shares their traits. Consider the case of Sulejman Talovic, a Bosnian Muslim who shot dead 5 people at Salt Lake City mall. FBI investigators rigorously emphasized that terrorism was not what motivated his attack, a line the media went with too. He was also described as a withdrawn loner.
Meanwhile, in the aftermath of that Chattanooga shooting, a narrative describing the Muslim shooter as having a “normal upbringing” is being reported on the wires — of the type that only white shooters supposedly only have. The family of the shooter is expressing horror and condemning his actions, while journalists are investigating a “depression” link to the killings amid almost undeniable evidence of a jihadist motive.
But hold on, an activist might say. As soon as the bullets stopped flying, the Chattanooga attack was almost immediately described by the authorities as “domestic terrorism”. Was it a rush to judgement because they learned he was a Muslim and had a beard? Maybe, but a massacre at a Wisconsin Sikh temple by a lone white male, Wade Michael Page, in 2012 also got the same label within the same time frame.
In fact, just this year, the Department of Homeland Security once again declared white “right-wing” extremists to be an equal or greater threat than Al-Qaeda and other jihadists. They released a similar report in 2009. Real or exaggerated, the US Government clearly has an obsessive focus on this demographic.
The dreaded flag
Large segments of the public, usually the loudest, also share this obsession. Exactly one month before Mr. Abdulazeez turned his guns on the very country that took him in, another depraved individual named Dylan Storm Roof entered the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina and shot dead 9 innocent black worshippers after taking part in a bible study with them for an hour. Filled with hate, racism, and a lot of sick delusions, Roof loathed the fact that he was unable to find accomplices willing to help incite his masterpiece: a race-war.
The country didn’t see it that way though.
Thanks to some photos that Roof took with the Confederate battle flag, shown above, the symbol has become one of the most stigmatized and hated visuals in America today, provoking a response that swept it out of practically every major retail chain and the South Carolina capitol grounds where it had been displayed a war memorial.
But that’s not all. Video games that show the flag are going away. The Dukes of Hazzard has been pulled off the air because one of the cars featured in the series is painted in the wretched, hurtful thing . There’s even motions to begin destroying tombs — something you would expect to see under the Islamic State in Iraq, Syria, or Libya, not in America. In essence, the southern culture, its history, and the millions of people who see the flag as a symbol of states’ rights and individual sovereignty were tied back to the actions of one evil individual — exactly the kind of behavior that the social justice movement castigates when the fallout hits non-whites or Muslim communities.
So I digress here.
The United States has a lot of problems to solve, but the shame of a media and government hell-bent on protecting white, Caucasian pride just isn’t one of them. Like it or not, mental illness IS a factor in a huge number of mass shootings in the country, including notorious white perpetrators and most of the non-white individuals that were mentioned above. A debate should be in order on what is ultimately responsible for these tragedies.
Other real debates include the prevalence of mind-altering drugs in American society (and whether they are legitimate or pose a disturbing risk), easy access to firearms by people with obvious mental health issues, what constitutes terrorism (of the right-wing, left-wing, and jihadist types), and gun-free zone restrictions like what was implemented in Chattanooga — where uniformed service personnel were left unarmed on their own base. I’m not pushing an argument for or against any of these here, at least not in this analysis, only that a debate is fair — unlike the disinformation about white cover-ups that engulf the internet every time a gunshot rings out in a public space.
Rather than set off racial unrest that threatens to tear apart the social fabric of society, the country as a whole should move to confront why this violence is happening, why it is so inevitable, and why so many minds irrespective of color or creed can snap so easily and kill fellow Americans.
There’s a lot to address, so let us stick to the truth.