Should White Men Be Racially Profiled?

by Britni Danielle

Since last Friday’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, many have been wondering how we can prevent another mass shooting from occurring.  While most of the conversations have centered on gun control and improving our mental health system, David Sirota, a writer for Salon, had an interesting observation: white men are getting a pass for their actions.

On an appearance on MSNBC’s Up With Chris Hayes, Sirota said that if the perpetrators of mass shootings belonged to another racial, ethnic, or religious group, that subset of people would be been relentlessly profiled under the guise of preventing another shooting, but because those who commit mass shootings have been overwhelmingly white and male, no such profiling will ever take place.

Sirota writes:

Let’s review: any honest observer should be able to admit that if the gunmen in these mass shootings mostly had, say, Muslim names or were mostly, say, African American men, the country right now wouldn’t be confused about the causes of the violence, and wouldn’t be asking broad questions. There would probably be few queries or calls for reflection, and mostly definitive declarations blaming the bloodshed squarely on Islamic fundamentalism or black nationalism, respectively. Additionally, we would almost certainly hear demands that the government intensify the extant profiling systems already aimed at those groups.

Yet, because the perpetrators in question in these shootings are white men and not ethnic or religious minorities, nobody is talking about demographic profiling them as a group. The discussion, instead, revolves around everything from gun control, to mental health services, to violence in entertainment – everything, that is, except trying to understanding why the composite of these killers is so similar across so many different massacres. This, even though there are plenty of reasons for that topic to be at least a part of the conversation.

Predictably, after Sirota wondered why no one ever seemed to consider the race of most mass shooters, he was attacked by several Conservative media outlets that accused him of race-baiting.

But Sirota has a point.

Had the Sandy Hook shooter been black or Latino or Muslim, the conversation about why he committed such a horrific event would have been tied to his troubled childhood or violent neighborhood or religious beliefs. But because the killer was a well-off white man, we are talking about improving our mental health system and banning assault weapons.

Sirota writes:

But the point here is that those tempered and nuanced conversations are only able to happen because the demographic at the center of it all is white guys. That is the one group in America that gets to avoid being referred to in aggregate negative terms (and gets to avoid being unduly profiled by this nation’s security apparatus), which means we are defaulting to a much more dispassionate and sane conversation — one that treats the perpetrators as deranged individuals, rather than typical and thus stereotype-justifying representatives of an entire demographic.

To be clear, racial profiling doesn’t work. But Sirota’s argument—that the only way we are able to talk about something other than the shooter’s race or upbringing, and instead focus on mental health and gun control—is because Adam Lanza was white is definitely an intriguing one.

What do you think?

  • Anthony

    Sirota is 100% correct. I would also add that ablack man the shooter’s age could not have gotten anywhere near Sandy Hook without a thousand red flags going off. Similarly, what black man could show up dressed totally in black, looking like a ninja at a movie and not been seen as a threat? Heck, many black men are afraid to even carry a legal size pocket knife for fear of arrest, let alone go around strapped down with Glocks and Bushmasters!

    Racial dynamics do indeed put white men in a position where it is much easier for them to pull off mass murder than men of color.

  • http://twitter.com/jameane Jame Ervin (@jameane)

    I 100% agree with the sentiments of Sirota. Do I actually think all young white males are potential spree shooters? Of course not. But when they are, we hear a lot about how he was a great kid, smart, but maybe a little troubled. If the shoes were reversed? We suddenly hear about a constant troublemaker, a religious extremist or poor parenting.

    We have a lot of issues here in the US; mental health issues, violence issues, race issues and class issues. If we can’t talk about this open and honestly, then we won’t be able to move forward and fix the problems.

    The kids and young adults using guns to resolve their problems all have a similar set of issues. They don’t seem to be very connected with their peers or community, they haven’t learned effective conflict resolution, and some even lack empathy. How do we fix that if we can’t admit it?

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    would the po po profile themselves?

  • Anthony

    This reminds me of something my Mother used to say: even if she is a murderer, a white woman is always called beautiful. Similarly, even white male mass murderers are described positively outside of their heinous crimes!

  • http://theaaridan.tumblr.com TheMuseintheMirror

    I had an argument on Facebook with a mutual friend of someone I go to church with. He (along with everyone else that was posting comments about “just giving the guns to good guys not the outlaws” – whatever that’s supposed to mean) stated that guns don’t kill, that people kill people. And we deserve the right to have guns and to protect ourselves with them.

    Now, I wrote a lot, so I’m not going to get too in-depth with all of this. But in jist, I basically told him that his argument proves that America has a love affair with guns and that this just shows how reliant and dependent we are on guns. It’s a generational cycle, folks. I don’t understand why Christians are the main ones supporting this malarky either. Why do you have more faith in guns than in God? What would Jesus do with a gun? Isn’t that who we live by?

    I also told this brainwashed black man that violence is gender based. Who are the main aggressors in acts of violence? Think about that. But men aren’t willing to give up those guns…

    All guns do in America is uphold white hegemonic masculinity ideologies. That is all. Have you ever wondered why physical abuse and other forms of violence are always against children, women, and minorities (specially African Americans)? There is an institutionalized, systematic reason for that. This controlling power that white man think they have is what makes them give guns to other countries around the world so that they could go out and murder each other. This controlling power is the result of the degradation and destruction of inner city neighborhoods.

    America will never get rid of it’s guns because the ones who have power in America are the ones who own the weaponry of militia and law enforcement in regular citizens’ houses.

    I mean…sometimes you just have to stand your ground right? Sometimes, you just have a psychological disorder and you just had to go out and handle it out on some people (I still don’t think that Lanza’s autism was the sole reason he went out and did what he did).

    Man, people have excuses. I just really wish people would wake up.

  • Flash

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

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

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

    LOL@ White America

  • EST. 1986

    It’s disgusting how on different articles I have been to around the Internet people are essentially making excuses for that damn killer’s behavior.

  • Perspective

    Exactly

  • http://valsotherblog.wordpress.com Val

    I profile White men. If I see a lone younger White man or a group of them coming down the street I cross the street. And that’s because I haven’t been brainwashed into thinking they can’t and don’t commit crimes. White men have committed the most crime and the most heinous crimes in this country and yet they like to pretend that’s not true. Of course White men need to be profiled. But, will they profile themselves? I doubt it.

  • http://educatedmusings360.wordpress.com educatedmusings360

    The response is to arm the teachers is racially tinged, too. Most gun violence happens in low income black communities. Is anyone saying we should arm the ‘hood? When the white supremacist shot the Sikh temple, was there a public outcry to arm the Sikhs? Then why are people talking about arming teachers? Maybe because the vast majority of the teaching force is comprised of white women?

  • http://educatedmusings360.wordpress.com educatedmusings360

    I agree with the vast majority of your post, but I have to make an objection that autism was part of the reason he acted out. People with autism have impaired communication. When they are distressed, it is usually due to them not being able to communicate about an immediate need related to one of the five senses or a physiological need. They do not harm other people as they are mostly focused on meeting their own needs. Most likely, this murder had some type of conduct disorder, ODD, or neurosis.

  • http://gravatar.com/nolakiss16 binks

    LOL I know this wasn’t supposed to be a laughing matter but this sums it up! Personally, I was sick and tired of hearing the excuse of “oh he is mentally unstable” it seems like people i.e. the powers that be are using mentally unstablity as an excuse or scapegoat but if it was anybody else…sighs but that is an article for another day.

  • http://theaaridan.tumblr.com TheMuseintheMirror

    Okay, I agree with you. Those are valid facts. But you have to realize that there were other factors involved to why he went and did what he did. I heard that he had practice with those weapons with his mother. It’s similar to that “I am AL’s mother” post”…how did he learn about this violence? How did he learn about the word, “bitch”?

    I just don’t believe in labeling people with a psychological disorder and just leaving it as an excuse as to why he did it. You know what I mean?

  • eshowoman

    Even when black people are insane, whites do not think it is a mitigating circumstance. Colin Fergerson, the LI commuter train killer was a flagrant paranoid schizophrenic, but they let him defend himself, non medicated at his trial.

  • http://educatedmusings360.wordpress.com educatedmusings360

    I understand. With the AL mother post, I must admit that when she said that he said ‘I’m going to jump out of the car and kill myself’, the first thing I thought was, “Jump then!” But I’m a black mama. There’s a difference between neurological and psychological disorders. I have a son with autism that has communication issues and doesn’t understand social norms like waiting in lines and being quiet in spaces where everyone is quiet. That’s different from having a psychological disorder where you intentionally hurt other people because you can. But on the other hand, my son is still a child. Many people report that they are much harder to handle after they go through puberty with hormones and everything. But even though I’m a mother of a child with special needs and I work to understand his intricacies, I’m still a black mama whose response to a threat from a child is “I wish you would!” Lol.

  • LemonNLime

    Basically!

  • gsutiger2

    I wish there were more comments on this article. I agree with the article and majority of the posts. When people of color do it its an epidemic. When they do it, it becomes an isolated medical issue. So sad.

  • cupcakes and shiraz

    Right?

  • http://valsotherblog.wordpress.com Val

    Yeah, Colin Ferguson was railroaded, no pun intended. They weren’t goingto let a Black man get away with killing all those White people. Had he been White he would have been allowed to be insane. Apparently being insane is only for White people.

  • MISS_EMCEE

    White people been massacring people since they stepped on earth I don’t see how non-white people people are shocked; especially black people. All white people should be racially profiled but, the system was created and ran by white people so why would they profile themselves? Some of you new negros smh you need to learn your oppressor history. Once, again this shooting shows white people cannot do wrong. Remember Jesus and God are white so another factor must be in stow for this to happen. The precious white man who is in the image of God and Jesus can’t be named a terrorist, evil doer, and the spawn from the devils nut sack. When the next one happens the same excuses and causes will be said over and over. Also, mental illness is only subjected for white people not for non white people. Just like all institutions in Amerikkka the health of all aspects if racist. White people are very violent so this incident didn’t surprise me. Sirota is on point with his statements but, Sirota knows white men needs those guns just in case black people decided to do something lmaooo.

    @Val I think we may be mental cousins lmaoooo. Your post is on point like white men love for hollow tip bullets.

  • apple

    a white teacher at my moms job told her “jimmy he’s so quiet..i’m worried..you know thats the kind that does that kind stuff and ..*whispers* he’s white! i dont mean to racial profile him but thats whose doing it!..i reported him”
    lol ha!

  • Jenn

    It is disturbing that when white males commit these heinous crimes, the focus is on mental illness. However, when black males commit violent crimes, emphasis is placed on so-callled thuggery. I, for one, do not think mental illness makes a white male more sympathetic or any less culpable for his actions than a black male who is a so-called thug.

  • Tracy

    Are you Paul Mooney, lmao

  • Anthony

    To quote my late mother again (she taught school) she was always exasperated that even black guidance counselors would excuse the behavior of white children by saying they had problems such the parents divorcing. Of course black kids, who often had to wear ill fitting suit coats in cold weather, were hungry, or on the verge of being homeless, were never thought to have problems: they were just bad!

  • Honest

    @Anthony

    LMAO!!!

  • Honest

    @eshowoman

    I need to get his tape!!! That trial was funny!!!

  • http://valsotherblog.wordpress.com Val

    “White people been massacring people since they stepped on earth I don’t see how non-white people people are shocked; especially black people.”

    Truth. But, their propaganda machine never stops. So, many ignore the facts and believe the propaganda, simply because it’s the easiest thing to do.

  • Mimi

    So we get made that no one ever says that a black person had mental issue…maybe because we don’t take our butt to seek help so it goes undiagnosed. Leaving others to search for another reason to report and fill in the blanks with. Lets start creating a medical record instead of a criminal record.

  • Anthony

    Damn good point!

  • http://gravatar.com/cocovabarbie KemaVA

    “They don’t seem to be very connected with their peers or community, they haven’t learned effective conflict resolution, and some even lack empathy.”

    I’ve heard some say he may have had aspergers. This would account for the lack of a connection with others. However it doesnt account for the violence.

  • Jointarms

    Look, let’s not make any excuses. The white guys aren’t getting their buttocks whipped. Period. In Singapore, a couple of years ago, some stupid white boy committed a criminal offense and he was sentenced to getting his buttocks whipped. You know what his sorry a** did? He contacted the U.S. State Dept. to come rescue his lame a**. Well, the Singapore Govt. whipped his a** anyway before sending the SOB back hm. This nonsense will never end as long as this murderous fools continue to get away with their evil deeds. Can you belief this bastard went to an elementary school and shot children? Hey, that’s not mental health problem, that’s a CRIMINAL. America stop your BS. You have stop and frisk in NY and you call white men’s murder in CT, WI, and CO mental health issues or stand your ground in FL. That SOB should rot in hell.

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