James Fallows in The Atlantic:
Here’s the other dark truth about America that today’s shooting reminds us of. The identity of the shooter doesn’t affect how many people are dead or how grievously their families and communities are wounded. But we know that everything about the news coverage and political response would be different, depending on whether killer turns out to be “merely” a white American man with a non-immigrant-sounding name. That’s who most mass-shooters turn out to be, from Charles Whitman at the University of Texas tower back in 1966 onward. And from Whitman onward, killers of this sort are described as “deranged” or “disturbed” or “resentful,” their crimes a reflection of their own torment rather than any larger trend or force. They are “troubled” youths, like the white teenaged boy who shot up classmates in West Paducah, Kentucky, in 1997, or the two white teenaged boys who shot up classmates in Columbine, Colorado, two years later, or the white teenaged boy who carried out the atrocity in Newtown, Connecticut. Or troubled older people, like the white man in his 60s who shot up the congressional baseball game this summer, or (on initial reports) the white man in his 60s who murdered so many people today. A report on the congressional-baseball shooter described his “descent into rage.”
These people are indeed deranged and angry and disturbed, and the full story of today’s killer is not yet known. It is possible that he will prove to have motives or connections beyond whatever was happening in his own mind (as Graeme Wood explains). But we know that if the killers were other than whites with “normal” names, the responsibility for their crime would not be assigned solely to themselves and their tortured psyches.
- If they had Arab-sounding names, this would be a new episode of jihad. How often has Donald Trump invoked “San Bernardino” in his speeches, as shorthand for the terrorist threat in our heartland?
- If they were Mexican, they would demonstrate the perils of immigration, and that Mexico is “not sending its best people.”
- If they had been illegal immigrants, they’d dramatize the need to crack down harder, right now.
- And if they had been black, I shudder to imagine the consequences.
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This is who we are.