Florida takes important step toward data-driven criminal justice policymaking
'Lone wolf' characterization of mass murderers is the epitome of white privilege
I must admit that when I woke up Monday morning to news that a mass shooting had occurred at the Route 91 Harvest Music Fest in Las Vegas, after saying a quick prayer for the dead and wounded, my next thought was "I hope that he is not black or Muslim."
My thoughts derived from the fact that our political climate over the past two decades has been driven by politicians and the media who automatically label black or Muslim men suspected of horrific crimes "thugs" or "terrorists," while white males who more often than not are the progenitors of mass violence are considered "lone wolves" or "mentally ill."
The result of this white-washing by politicians and pundits is that society fears black men or brown men with Arabic names in a way that it does not fear white males. It is a fear that is inconsistent with the fact that throughout American history, many of the worst examples of terrorism were wrought by the acts of white men who identified as Christians.
For those wondering "when will the violence end," my skeptical answer is "never." My skepticism derives from knowing that America was forged by gun violence against Native Americans that helped European settlers steal their lands.
It was gun violence and gun bartering that enabled Europeans to steal and trade Africans who were subsequently forced to clear the woods, drain the swamps, plant the crops, and build roads and structures during the Colonial age and earliest days of the United States. Further, American independence from Great Britain was earned through violence, and violence restored the broken Union during the Civil War.
Further, lest we forget violent massacres like Wounded Knee in 1890, the Tulsa Riots in 1921, the Rosewood Massacre in 1923, and the thousands of black men, women and children who were lynched by white Christian males who inflicted terror on these people and communities with impunity.
Indeed, the racial disparities in past and present violence is maddening in that the anecdotal evidence tends to show that the average American stands a greater chance of being killed by some white man or boy with a grudge than by some foreign jihadists.
Beyond anecdotes, in 2009, the Department of Homeland Security noted in a report that white supremacists, radical anti-abortionists and a "few disgruntled veterans" were the greatest threats to national security.
Predictably, the report drew the ire of conservative Republicans, including then House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who objected to using the term "terrorist" to "describe American citizens who disagree with the direction Washington Democrats are taking our nation."
Cognizant of America's violent past, I found it curious yesterday when a number of my social media friends suggested that "we should not turn this tragedy into a political event." Sorry, but politics and American violence are inextricably linked.
Sensible gun or ammunition control will never occur in these United States because the powerful National Rifle Association holds sway over politicians to the point that otherwise rational Americans who have seen the damage that high-powered assault weapons can cause refuse to consider common sense legislation.
The truth of the matter is that if Americans can watch as indescribable carnage takes place at political rallies, movie theaters, places of worship and yes, elementary schools like the one in Sandy Hook where 20 children and six teachers were slaughtered - and not pass any meaningful legislation - there never will be meaningful change and our prayers and "moments of silence" will continue to ring hollow.
Chuck Hobbs is a lawyer and award winning freelance journalist who has been nominated twice for the Pulitzer Prize in Commentary. Follow him on Twitter @RealChuckHobbs