Whenever a tragic mass shooting occurs, the media often scrambles to make sense of the senseless and explain the unexplainable. One of the narratives that are often picked up by journalists in the wake of mass shootings carried out by white men is the story of mental illness. That line of reasoning is noticeably absent from many of the individual and mass shootings that occur among black and brown people.

If it was indeed mental illness that caused Adam Lanza to brutally murder 27 innocent victims (18 of whom were young children) in Newton, Connecticut, then who is to blame for not treating Adam or atleast protecting him from victims to whom he was an imminent threat?

Some critics are blaming his mother.

Gawker published a story on Sunday entitled “I Am Adam Lanza’s mother.” The writer, Liza Long, is described as “a single mother of four bright, loved children, one of whom has special needs.” Long painfully recounts her struggle to care for her son, Michael (name changed) who struggles with mental illness. She writes of the many times Michael has attacked her and threatened to kill her or himself. She talks about collecting all the sharp objects in the home in a Tupperware container that she carries everywhere so he won’t use them as a weapon. She also references her 7 and 9 year-old children, Michael’s siblings, who she trained to lock themselves in her car during Michael’s dangerous episodes.

Her essay immediately drew ire among commenters who labeled her an unfit mother. They argued that Michael is an immediate threat to everyone in his path. As his mother, she has a duty to herself, to her other children who live in fear and to society to protect us from that threat. Readers offered everything from prison to a mental institution to medication as a solution.

Here’s one comment via Gawker:

“If you have a child that you know is capable of committing mass murder you have a responsibility to contain them by whatever means are necessary. Your child assaults you? Press charges. Medicate them. Even if it turns them into a zombie. Have them committed to a mental institution. Even if it’s a sh*tty one. Can’t get them into one? Lock them in their bedroom. Surrender them to the state. They threaten to kill themselves? Let them. Because one day they will kill you. And your other children. And perfect strangers. Just because all the choices are shitty it doesn’t mean that you don’t have choices. Pick one. Do something because they are your responsibility. And for f*ck sake, don’t own firearms.”

Another commenter shed light on how racism blinds society from potentially dangerous white men, allowing them to go unchecked until they commit mass murder:

“There is another elephant in the room we’re not discussing: racism and how it’s putting our entire society at risk when it comes to mass shooters. If a black kid was pulling knives on his family and threatening their lives, just how f*cking long do you think they’d be allowed to remain free, walking among us until they finally snapped? If a black kid made people as uncomfortable as Adam Lanza did, would he make it to 20 years old and a mass shooting of an elementary school before people FINALLY deemed him dangerous? Black kids can’t even listen to loud music in parking lots before they’re perceived as threatening, yet somehow white kids like Adam Lanza and Michael go their whole lives with excuses being made for them before they finally snap and kill dozens.”

What’s your opinion, Clutchettes? Is it that society should rally behind parents of mentally ill children or mothers should bear the responsibility of making difficult decisions regarding their child’s condition? Is racism putting us at risk by criminalizing black men while letting potentially dangerous white men go unbothered until they commit mass murder? Discuss.

May the innocent victims of the tragic Newton shooting rest in peace.

  • Tallulah Belle

    Exactly! In many urban centers nearly half of all Black and Latino men make contact with the criminal justice system by age 17. It is quite easy to get a young black or Latino man locked up for everything from “holding” to “possession” to “suspicion of…” — go ahead, you name it. Why? Because American society is set up to lock up black and Latino men. Period. In our country, these young men are simply “criminally-minded.” However, when a young white kid exhibits behavior nothing short of pure evil, he is labeled “a genius, but troubled.” I think that the Newtown shooter should have been placed into the criminal justice system by any means necessary. It is not hard to get a young man locked up. It only takes a simple phone call to the police. As I recall, in the HuffPost article, one of the commenters suggested that this woman have her son locked up in Rikers. And she replied that her son was not a criminal, but a “brilliant young man” etc…

    Listen, our country will never solve the problem of mass shootings, 99% of which are done by young, white men, because we do not believe that young, intelligent white men are criminals. And therein lies the crux of the problem — RACISM. RACISM. RACISM.

  • victoria

    Dam*! Who can live like that? Afraid of your own child.

    I have an Aunt in the same situation. Her son has threatened her many times; kicked out of a number of school; fighting teachers and principals: severe rage; throwing knives; destroying her house; etc. Many in my family, including me, fear that he will follow through on his threats to harm her. In attempts to maintain a peaceful home she purchases him everything he wants…60inch flat screen tv, video games, expensive clothes, a car. The police actually told him that they are waiting for him to turn 18. At that age, my Aunt can no longer come to his rescue.

    Regarding race, YES, black boys are treated differently. Black boys arent allotted the same opportunity as white children. I discuss that with my husband (who is white). Our son will be treated poorly by many because of his skin.

  • http://gravatar.com/gennatay gennatay

    In all honesty, I read the article and thought he was the product of bad parenting. At one point in the article, the kid didn’t want to wear a particular color of pants to school and called his mom a “stupid b*tch” because of it. Her response, “you don’t get electronics for the rest of the day”. He later apologized because he knew he was wrong and when she didn’t let him have his way, he got violent with her.

    Kids just don’t wake up one day and start calling their parent out of their names and pulling out knives. It read like, to me, that this behavior was probably tolerated early on and she ignored it until it escalated. Have you ever been out someplace and saw a kid have a tantrum and start swinging on their parents and they do nothing, this looks like the same thing.

  • Orange Starr Happy Hunting

    This society views and treats sane black and brown boys men as a threat, so……….

  • http://gravatar.com/myblackfriendsays myblackfriendsays

    It bothers me to see so many bloggers using this tragedy to raise their own profile, by writing about some tenuous connection they have to the event.

  • paul

    I prefer this piece to the other one posted today on the Newtown massacre. I can tell it’s gonna be a more earthy “get down” discussion in which people don’t try to bury the truth under a pile of cumbayah platitudes.

  • Treece

    I don’t think ANY child should be labeled as “pure evil” or be permitted to kill themselves or be treated inhumanely b/c of mental illness. What the commenter said in response to Longs article is sickening. I don’t care what the child’s race is, there should be more compassion for the mentally ill and disturbed. I think we are all aware at this point in history that Black males aren’t treated with the same amount of sympathy or empathy as White males when this sort of thing happens. Yes, that pissed me off. But I’m not going to suggest that the mental instability of Lanza or Longs son be overlooked. I am viewing this issue from both sides and trying to be sympathetic/empathetic to all people concerned. I also think that Long is trying to do right by her son by trying every other avenue she can before having to institutionalize him (those places are horrible!). I am not a mother, but I couldn’t imagine having a child with severe emotional disturbances and still loving him so much, not knowing what to do. I do give her kudos for coming forth with her story. And because she has REMOVED the weapons from her home to help her family stay safe. Unfortunately we can’t say the same for Lanza’s mom, may she rest in peace.

  • Chillyroad

    It pains me to talk about this topic because I understand very well that troubled boys who aren’t white are labelled as criminal and pathological. I don’t want the same to happen to white boys because black white brown or Asian… some of our boys are troubled and need help. It isn’t going to help if we just do to them what has been done to us. Get our boys out of special education get them help, ie sports, hobbies, martial arts, counselling, exercise, love and patience.

  • Tallulah Belle

    I don’t disagree that the shooter was mentally ill. I am personally familiar with mental illness, so I completely understand this woman’s pain. What I have a problem with is this country’s unwillingness to incarcerate young white men who exhibit criminal behavior under the guise of being “mentally ill.” Just because someone is “mentally ill” in no way means that they are not behaving “evilly” or “criminally.” Quite often the mental illness and the hideous behavior go hand in hand. They have a cause and effect relationship. What I want to emphasize, however, is that all mothers are in pain over their children’s mental illness, no matter how it is characterized by our society. Black and Latino mothers can be in pain too. In fact, black and Latino mammas are no less in pain and deserving of our nation’s sympathy over the mental illness of their son’s than are suburban and white mothers.

  • leelah

    I think society needs to examine white america’s romantic notion that guns is a hobby or tradition one can share with their family. Its frightening that children are allowed in gun ranges when we don’t even allow them into bars.Over and over again, we hear of children getting their parents guns and accidently shooting themselves or a sibling. And more and more, we hear about angry teens killing their parents, siblings, and everybody else with daddy’s gun. the oregon shooter used someone he knew gun. and the newtown shooter used his mom. when will white america be forced to take responsibility for this irresponsible gun culture they created? If rap music and single mothers is brought up as cultural causes of black crime. Then that sarah palin, we hunt as a family mentality is to blame for all these well armed mass murders.

  • http://gravatar.com/gennatay Gina

    Some of this may also be due to the fact that some Black families are not willing to admit that someone in their family maybe mentally ill. It does take a lot out of any parent to realize that something maybe wrong with their child. for example, just think of how many undiagnosed cases of Autism there may have been in the 80′ and 90′s. Those children were placed in the remedial classes because we didn’t know what to look for and hen we did, we didn’t want to admit it. The kid gets tired of being called “bad” or “slow” and starts believing it and acting out because of it. I agree that that we need to get them out out special education and expose them to more extra curricular activities. I could never understand the logic behind putting all the kids with the same so called behavioral problems in the same room and expecting them to somehow act better.

  • Anthony

    I don’t think hunting or target shooting are dangerous. The danger comes from the notion that a gun can truly solve your problems or make you genuinely safe. In real life, even corrupt cities place cops on suspension and investigate them after a shooting. Even if Zimmerman gets off, does anyone think he will be eager to go shoot another black boy after all the stuff he’s been through? In the movies, however, shooting somebody solves everything.

    Personally, I believe in the right of armed self defense, especially at home or a business, but I do not think that a gun is preferable to learning how to avoid escalating an argument, avoiding bad places, making smart life style choices, or even moving to another community if possible. The best a weapon can do is save you at that one moment when you use it, but it might leave you open to something worse later. That is why I support self defense, but only under limited circumstances.

    Having read gun magazines and
    Self defense literature, I know that many put forth a notion that a gun will make a person superman, capable of conquering all. That is the attitude that leads to gun worship and needless violence.

  • paul

    Yeh well it’s no surprise to me that atrocities of this scale always happen in resettled white flight communities where they barricade themselves in with guns and lock the world beyond out to protect their whiteness.

    A mass school shootings of this kind is just about the worst indictment of a community as it’s possible to get for choosing babies as the victims was clearly intended to inflict the maximum pain possible on the adults of the community.

    There was only one gunman but all of em put the gun in his hand.

  • Treece

    I agree that mental illness can cause an individual to do terrible things and that white people who use it as a defense generally get the benefit of the doubt. What I was saying is that if mental illness is confirmed, Black males should be able to have that benefit as well (and Latino). Basically, my point is similar to yours…

  • whatever

    I agree. Her story doesn’t even warrant the title “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother” their stories are nothing alike. She locks up her sharp objects in tupperware while Adam’s mother flaunted a firearm collection in the home she shared with her psychopath son. She had to scramble for health insurance and resources, Adam’s parents are wealthy (his father makes 1 Million dollars a year). She is actually trying to find a solution for her son’s behavior while Adam was allowed to play violent video games and because of privilege, interact with society “normally”. I’m sure all the signs the author pays attention to, Adam’s parents ignored.

    Adam was a psychopath. Period. For this woman to compare her own son to a young man that was capable of killing 20 children for no apparent reason is mind boggling. She needs to take care of her damn son and stop trying to gain attention amid this tragedy.

  • leelah

    this has nothing to do with self-defense or sporting magazines or even target practice. I’m saying that guns is not a hobby that one should share with children. you are teaching and giving access to a deadly weapon to children who immaturely believe that a gun can solve your problems. or that guns can help you get out your frustration and anger. With these mass shootings, to many of these young men are using their family’s guns. I’m not talking about street crime, I’m talking about little awkward billy grabbing daddy’s gun and shooting up his school.

  • whatever

    Then we must assume that EVERY person that harms or kills another human being is mentally ill, not just those that kill dozens in these mass shootings. I am sick and tired of hearing mental illness as the reason. It is a cop out. If someone pulls out a gun and shoots 1 man, that person is also “mentally ill” because it is not “normal” to end another person’s life. Adam was an evil psychopath who knew exactly what he was doing (bulletproof vest and all) this mass murder was premeditated and trust that he looked forward to becoming “famous” from all the news coverage he created when he walked into an elementary school and put multiple bullets in each child.

    Yes, we get it, he was crazy. However, he came from wealthy parents that did nothing about it and essentially, it led to this horrific event. This boils down to terrible parenting, not mental illness.

  • Talluah Belle

    Hey, Shawty… Adam Lanza’s mother was: 1. a single mother 2). white 3). rich 4) nuts 5) bored 6) an enabler of a sociopathic lunatic who should have been in juvenile detention and, 7) dead.

  • leelah

    how many black mothers put the gun in their son’s hands? how many take their children to the gun range? when are we going to tell people that guns are a bad hobby to share with your kids?

  • Anthony

    Leelah, I learned to shoot from my father as a pre-teen and I certainly did not turn into a homocidal maniac and I am certainly not a terrorist or criminal. I am also took part in competitive rifle target shooting in my teens and I took rifle shooting and archery as a PE when I was in college. I no longer own a rifle, but I still have an shotgun an Uncle gave me and I have a few air guns that I use for target shooting and chasing raccoons out of my trash can. I think early instruction in gun safety makes perfect sense if a person is going to own guns, although it is not a substitute for keeping them locked up and out of sight from children. In the case of the late Ms. Lanza, she should have not have guns at her home at all since her son apparently had serious metal issues.

    I don’t expect to get much support on my position, but I think it is important to know that there are black gun owners and shooting enthusiasts like me who have never been arrested for anything, let alone a gun violation.

    By the way, I do support gun control, especially enhanced background checks, limiting the number of gun buys during a month or year, and outlawing clips or magazines of more than ten retroactively.

  • Anthony

    Paul, I think you have a great point. That is why commentary about shootings like Newtown always include some remark like, “how could it happen here?” The truth is that the average crook in the hood does not have the firepower in guns or ammunition to pull off a school massacre since they are buying guns and bullets on the black market. Furthermore, the average black crook would have no interest in a school shooting because there is no money in shooting kids, and these guys are most often fighting directly over money or the control of territory.

    Mass shootings are product of “crazy” young white men with access to resources.

  • http://theaaridan.tumblr.com TheMuseintheMirror

    That second comment on this article? You know…

    “Black kids can’t even listen to loud music in parking lots before they’re perceived as threatening, yet somehow white kids like Adam Lanza and Michael go their whole lives with excuses being made for them before they finally snap and kill dozens.”

    Thank you so much for that. You just summed up all of my thoughts. That isn’t nothing but the ABSOLUTE TRUTH.

  • JNoire

    All of this. ^^^ Preach.

  • http://gravatar.com/missinformation7 Ms. Information
  • Humanista

    I initially thought the same thing, but is seems as though out of the 3 kids, he is the only one w/ these issues; he sounds like he actually has actual issues. Whatever the reason, he needs to be kept away from the other kids; I’ll be damned if the majority of my family is living in fear of one member. He couldn’t stay.

  • http://fromthoughtsintowords.blogspot.com/ rkahendi

    Thank you for this balanced response. A few of the comments I’ve read here were getting on my nerves. Mental illness is a real problem, but many people seem to think it’s always about good parenting.

    The thing that gets to me is how people are always ready to judge and condemn after the fact. But before the catastrophic event, when mum and/ or dad are asking for help with appropriate institutionalization/ medical support for their mentally ill child, few are remotely interested. This is one of those situations that brings home to me the degree to which our society is more invested in reacting to problems in a self-righteous manner than in proactively looking for solutions. We wait for violence to erupt and then resort to familiar “truths” to comfort ourselves instead of anticipating the kinds of situations that could escalate into bloodshed and working hard to prevent them from happening.

    Like you, I’m pretty fed up at the ease with which people label the mentally ill “evil”. Like you, I also applaud Long’s article. It is, honestly the only piece I’ve read in the aftermath of the shootings that I found sincere and helpful. I don’t think she was just looking for attention as some seem to be suggesting. I think she hit the nail on the head and her story is directly relevant to the tragedy in CT.

    I also believe that a lot of mental illness goes untreated in minority communities. This society is so used to stereotyping black people that, even when there are clear signs of mental illness or psychological trauma (for instance, due to physical or sexual abuse), we want to pretend that “black people are just violent.” I’ve seen similar reporting about violence in Native American communities countrywide.

    Quite frankly, when I read about violence in the black community, I often see indications between the lines that the perpetrator was mentally ill. It’s true that the mainstream news reports rarely bother to look into that. But it’s also true that we, members of black and other minority communities, are not doing enough to create awareness about mental illness and to provide support to our own. We all too often buy into the stereotypes about us.

  • Marles

    Perfectly said.

  • Emme

    Beautifully stated Treece.

    It’s hard to understand mental illness because we can’t see it. Clearly Black boys are held to a different standard, but that’s a separate issue that needs to be addressed for a host of other reasons. There are plenty children and people of all ages and races with mental disabilities who wreak havoc on the lives of people around them at different levels of severity. Still mental health is an issue that doesn’t get enough attention. I think we’re going to be forced to see major changes over the next decade with respect to mental health care.

  • AP

    Thank you for sharing this!

  • I got sense!

    “Get our boys out of special education get them help, ie sports, hobbies, martial arts, counselling, exercise, love and patience.”

    That’s their parent’s job. The reason it’s so easy for black boys to be labeled is because of the man and woman that created them.

  • Tallulah Belle

    Wow! What a great article. Thanks for sharing.

  • Ooh La La

    I think you make a great point. Guns are just not a hobby that should be shared with children. The very same reason you wouldn’t share provocative films/drinking with children. They are not mature enough to understand that with such hobbies also comes a responsibility to use take part wisely. Children are not yet capable of fully grasping how and when they should be used.

  • cupcakes and shiraz

    This. Adam Lanza is NOT mentally ill. He is just an evil, murderous spawn that thought the world owed him something and was pissed that he didn’t get it.

  • Flash

    Black man = Guilty! (n*gga knew what he was doing).

    Foreign man = Terrorist! (send 2 Guantanamo Bay).

    White man = Mentally unstable (let’s research what happened).

    LOL@ White America

  • fauxgressive

    The problem is that our country has closed down most of the long term mental health facilities. (We just lost the last big one in our area a few months ago.) There is nowhere to send him other than juvenile prison, so they have to wait until he actually hurts someone badly or commits some other crime.

    Even if he does commit a crime, he most likely wouldn’t be kept all that long since he is a minor and it is clear that he has a history of mental health issues. There aren’t even enough mental health resources in prison for those kinds of kids. It’s a terrible situation, even if you have a lot of help and personal resources. It’s almost impossible if you don’t.

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