I'm almost positive these aren't original thoughts or concepts I'm sharing, but I've been thinking deeply about the shooting last week in Charleston, SC, and had some thoughts around why we continue to see young, white, angry, racist men commit mass murders/shootings.
Discrimination and oppression are felt differently by different groups and there are certainly different layers and levels of oppression. For example, as a white woman, I have experienced discrimination and oppression but not nearly at the level felt by trans women, black women and other women of color. And that is important to note. Nonetheless, I experience (almost daily) street harassment. I have to think consciously about my appearance every day and how I will be perceived based on how much I am showing. I have to work harder for less and be overly-polite and attentive to the needs of male coworkers. I often feel unsafe. I am used to not getting my way and having certain situations not work in my favor, purely because I am a woman. I've been taught by society - teachers, the media, coworkers & bosses, even friends and family - that I am not entitled to certain things, such as safety or the chance to act wild, bossy or angry. I'm taught that if I go against this system, I will not be happy or treated well by society at-large. These confinements are felt much more by men & women of color as well as gender-queer and trans folks. Especially those who are also poor. This needs to be reiterated. And unlike white men, resisting these confinements is never met with the "mental illness" argument.
However, what occurred to me is that young white men in America are not confined. Sure, if they are poor, they face certain hardships. But ultimately, white men are taught to be entitled to jobs, safety and even more importantly, women, authority and respect.
They haven't had to deal with not getting a job purely because they are a man (unless of course it's a job like "women's health specialist" or some such title, but there will always be fine details that do not take away from the larger argument). They haven't had to deal with being spoken down to purely because they are a man (or white). They haven't had to deal with constantly questioning their safety, whether it be around police or drunk men at a house party or even walking down the street. They often don't have to deal with not "getting their way".
Which brings me to my argument: When young, white, racist men in America, feel sad or angry or that they haven't got their way, they seek power or dominance to correct the situation. That's right - CORRECT the situation. Because white, male entitlement in America has been set in place since the country was taken over in the 16th century.
These mass shootings are murderous tantrums, performed by people who believe that the world owes them success, wealth, happiness and the right to dominate. If any of these things or other freedoms and privileges are not felt, then someone has to pay. In the case of the USA, this is far too often innocent black people.
I think the pro-gun lobbying is so intense and so white and male because guns are a vessel for control - an easy and quick way to form dominance.
So it's clear we need to challenge this notion of who deserves certain things. And this goes into respectability politics and teaching certain people that they should confine to certain norms to be "safe" or "respected". Black people are told to dress, speak and behave in certain ways otherwise they aren't entitled to safety or respect. But as we have seen this week, being a church-going, respectable black person still does not make you safe.
Similarly, women being completely covered up or behaving sweetly and passively are not safer or more respectable. Far too often are women raped and abused in their own homes and women in cultures across the world who cover-up also face sexual and domestic abuse.
There should be no social hierarchy for being entitled to safety and respect. When we dismantle the system that was deliberately and forcibly built for white men to prosper (see: slavery, colonialism, laws around gender, etc.), then maybe we will see less ongoing, murderous slaughter.
May the 9 people who died in Charleston RIP. And may we all, especially my fellow white people, stay angry and alert and teach other white people about what is going on, because if you are ignoring this, then you may as well stand with Dylann Roof.
Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor
The Honorable Rev. Clementa Pinckney
Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr.
Rev. Sharonda Singleton
Photo from Reuters
- Posted by Olympia