INQUIRER.NET

The ‘lone wolf’ and white privilege

I’m sure that many folk, hearing news of the mass shooting in Las Vegas and the awful toll in lives—at least 59 dead so far, with 527 injured—immediately wondered if it wasn’t somehow an act
of terrorism. “Terrorism,” that is, in terms of being the work of an organized group
of killers, foreign almost certainly, who want the mayhem and murder to send a politically-charged message.

But, as far as US law enforcement is concerned, the deadly rampage turned out to be the handiwork of a single person, and as is increasingly true in America, the shooter turned out to be a white male, described in most accounts as a “lone wolf.”

In his “think piece” in the nonprofit website “The Intercept,” Shaun King wrote of conversations he had with two people, one black and the other Muslim, in the wake of Stephen Paddock’s actions. “Both of them said that, when they heard about this awful shooting in Las Vegas, they immediately began hoping that the shooter was not black or Muslim. Why? Because they knew that the blowback on all African-Americans or Muslims would be fierce if the shooter hailed from one of those communities.”

Comments King: “Something is deeply wrong when people feel a sense of relief that the shooter is white because they know that means they won’t suffer as a result.” White people, on the other hand, posits King, “had no such feeling (after the shooting) because 400 years of American history tells them that no such consequences will exist for them today as a result of Paddock’s actions.”

This “is an exemplar of white privilege: not just being given a head start in society, but also the freedom from certain consequences of individual and group actions.”

Or to put simply, in King’s words: “Whiteness, somehow, protects men from being labeled terrorists.”
A review of recent American history, even just a listing of mass shootings in the past 20 years or so, would show that “majority of mass shooters in this country (were) white American.” And that simple fact, says King, “changes absolutely everything about the way this horrible moment gets discussed in the media and the national discourse.”

King observes that when an individual claiming to be Muslim commits a horrible act, “many on the right will tell us Islam is the problem.” And when an act of violence is committed by an African-American, “racist tropes follow—and eventually, the criminalization and dehumanization of an entire ethnic group.”
But no one is now saying—at least in American media—that white men present a danger to American lives. Not even middle-aged, retired, wealthy inveterate gamblers like Paddock was.

In his monologue in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, comedian Trevor Noah made potshots at how the media were leery about turning the tragedy into a debate on gun control, which it certainly should debate since Paddock had an arsenal of 17 guns, including semi-automatic weapons, and a cache of ammunition in his hotel room.

Instead, media commenters wanted to discuss matters like “Muslims, blacks and white nationalists.” Noah even showed footage of talking heads discussing security measures in hotels as well as “the check-in issue.” Meanwhile, he said, the US Congress was on the verge of passing a bill removing silencers from the list of prohibited items in gun ban legislation.

And if The Donald seemed rather laid back in his comments after Las Vegas, maybe it was because he couldn’t say anything about his favorite targets: Muslims, blacks, foreigners, and the poor. The biggest danger to America, it seems, doesn’t come from the Middle East or North Korea, but from within Middle America itself.

What sort of wall could the US government put up to guard against the “lone wolves” hiding in plain sight in their midst? And if we go by the description of Paddock, doesn’t it sound uncannily like Trump himself?

Outbrain