Only a white man can kill three people in cold blood and still be described as a “gentle loner who occasionally unleashed violent acts toward neighbors and women he knew.” (*link FAIR) Such was the case with Robert L. Dear Jr., a perpetrator of mass murder in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The New York Times was the vehicle for humanizing the shooter. This same newspaper felt obliged to point out that Ferguson murder victim Michael Brown was “no angel.”
There is a depressing regularity to shootings committed by angry white men in the United States. The most recent murders occurred in Colorado Springs, Colorado where Dear murdered a police officer and two other people. Dear committed his crimes at a Planned Parenthood facility. Planned Parenthood has become the obsession of the right wing, with Republican presidential candidates outdoing one another in their promises to put it out of business altogether. The constant drum beat against abortion in general and Planned Parenthood in particular appears to have pushed Dear over the edge and into a murderous rage.
Dear certainly fit the profile. He lived alone in a mountain trailer, had run-ins with neighbors and made violent threats. He was accused of being a peeping tom and may have sought S&M partners online.
But those facts may be too facile in explaining Dear’s acts. In the final analysis Dear acted the way too many white men do. They believe they are entitled to be violent but they are not being illogical in reaching that conclusion. States like Colorado with gun loving cultures enable the sickness. Dear’s killing spree was not even the first in Colorado Springs this year. On October 31st another white man randomly shot and killed three people and set a building on fire for good measure. When a witness attempted to report the impending crime she was told that the state’s open carry law prevented the police from investigating. Of course they did after the carnage was over.
These individuals may have mental health disorders, histories of substance abuse or past trauma but in the final analysis they have been given carte blanche to act out in whatever way they choose because of white skin privilege. Their life stories may help explain their actions, but essentially being a white man is at the root of their problems.
Recent studies have shown that middle aged white men like Dear are killing themselves indirectly with life style choices. They are drinking, drugging and engaging in other behaviors which are causing premature deaths. The loss of status they once enjoyed is too much for them, even though as a group they are better off than black people are. Apparently the whole world is better off with the non-violent yet still suicidal white person. They only take themselves out.
In the coming days and weeks we will be subjected to ultimately useless debate about gun control and how abortion is discussed. The president was first out of the gate when he declared in sonorous tones, “This is not normal.” Unfortunately it is all too normal because we never get an honest discussion about the illness which pervades American society, white supremacy.
On the same day that Dear wrought havoc in Colorado, another white man in Mississippi shot a restaurant waitress who asked him not to smoke. In between claims of shock and surprise one friend felt compelled to say of the killer, “He was a good person. He wasn’t a monster.” Cold blooded killing is quite monstrous, but even in that act whiteness trumps everything else and the benefit of the doubt is always given.
In the final analysis, nothing is done about gun violence because white people want to keep their guns. Occasionally they too are victimized but that is a risk they are willing to take. The history of white mob violence against black communities would often read like this. “Twenty-five negroes and two white men killed.” The deaths of two white men may have been lamented but not enough to change group behavior. A loss here and there was considered worth the price of maintaining the hierarchy of white terror.
It isn’t surprising that Dear and his ilk feel entitled to kill. When they do they are called gentle loners. Their families are viewed sympathetically. The New York Times referenced his ex-wife’s weeping blue eyes, just to make certain that readers didn’t forget she is white. They also quoted her as calling him “an imperfect but good man.”
These mass killers know that police have a license to kill, the political system and their culture urge them to be armed and even if they become less gentle they will still be seen as victims instead of villains. They all want to be part of that well-regulated militia in the Second Amendment of the Constitution, the slave patrol that still exists. The rest of their society talks out of both sides of the mouth, hand wringing when the bullets fly but still giving them a pass. After all it must be difficult to vilify a gentle, imperfect, occasionally violent person.