Imagine if African American men and boys were committing mass shootings month after month, year after year. Articles and interviews would flood the media, and we’d have political debates demanding that African Americans be “held accountable.” Then, if an atrocity such as the Newtown, Conn., shootings took place and African American male leaders held a news conference to offer solutions, their credibility would be questionable. The public would tell these leaders that they need to focus on problems in their own culture and communities.
But when the criminals and leaders are white men, race and gender become the elephant in the room.
Nearly all of the mass shootings in this country in recent years—not just Newtown, Aurora, Fort Hood, Tucson and Columbine—have been committed by white men and boys. Yet when the National Rifle Association (NRA), led by white men, held a news conference after the Newtown massacre to advise Americans on how to reduce gun violence, its leaders’ opinions were widely discussed.
Unlike other groups, white men are not used to being singled out. So we expect that many of them will protest it is unfair if we talk about them. But our nation must correctly define their contribution to our problem of gun violence if it is to be solved.
When white men try to divert attention from gun control by talking about mental health issues, many people buy into the idea that the United States has a national mental health problem, or flawed systems with which to address those problems, and they think that is what produces mass shootings.
But women and girls with mental health issues are not picking up semiautomatic weapons and shooting schoolchildren. Immigrants with mental health issues are not committing mass shootings in malls and movie theaters. Latinos with mental health issues are not continually killing groups of strangers.
If life were equitable, white male gun-rights advocates would face some serious questions to assess their degree of credibility and objectivity. We would expect them to explain:
What facets of white male culture create so many mass shootings?
Why are so many white men and boys producing and entertaining themselves with violent video games and other media?
Why do white men buy, sell and manufacture guns for profit; attend gun shows; and demonstrate for unrestricted gun access disproportionately more than people of other ethnicities or races?
Why are white male congressmen leading the fight against gun control?
If Americans ask the right questions on gun issues, we will get the right answers. These answers will encourage white men to examine their role in their own culture and to help other white men and boys become healthier and less violent.
[Editor’s Note: See here for an amusing parody of this article.]