America’s Mass Murderers: Coming To a Theater Near You…Sooner or Later?

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  • When mass murders barge into breaking news reports, the suspects' race is usually ushered into a blank space or assigned a low priority.

    Many news reports, moreover, lack any reference to the murderers' racial characteristics. These omissions leave the distinct impression that the killer's race had little or no relevance to his crime or its subsequent coverage.

    While references to race are often treated as secondary or unimportant, all media reportage, by contrast, dutifully includes gender and age.

    Like James E. Holmes, the nation's latest mass murder suspect, who allegedly snuffed out 12 lives in an Aurora, Colorado, theater and wounded another 59, all of the accused have been men.

    And, according to an article on the Washington Post's website last week, almost all the 645 mass murders committed in the United States from 1976 through 2010 were the work of white men.

    There were few exceptions. So few in fact, as to be statistically insignificant. A handful of the mass murderers were black, Asian or Middle Eastern.

    But not only were all the perpetrators men, but they were youthful men, ranging in age from their early 20s to mid 30s.

    None of them were women.

    In an effort to understand this obvious disparity which seems to cry out for analysis and solutions, BlackAmericaWeb.com reached out to a group of respected African-American psychologists and psychiatrists.

    Only one black psychologist, Ronald Beavers, a clinical practitioner in Los Angeles, agreed to be interviewed based on questions about the role race plays in mass murders.

    A white professor who specializes in religious and gender histories, however, Hugo Schwyzer, who teaches at Pasadena City College, was most forthcoming when asked to comment. Schwyzer, on "Role/ReBoot," his website, on July 23 posted a controversial piece, "Why Most Mass Murderers Are Privileged White Men."

    Both men, although their disciplines seem disparate, agreed that mass murders in the United States represent a crisis in their commission and the nation's failure to come to terms with their frequency and devastating impacts.                 

    The nation's mass murders, Schwyzer said, "are absolutely a crisis," which should have been acknowledged long ago.  "A national conversation to causal factors and find solutions" he said, should have been held by now.

    Schwyzer, who earned his doctoral degree at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), compared the lack of a national response in this country to the reaction by Scottish government in 1995, after that nation's only mass murder in its history.

    The Scottish government, Schwyzer said, "sponsored a national conversation that lasted for more than a year. Last year, in Norway, after that nation's horrendous mass murder, Schwyzer noted, "a conversation, which is still continuing, was convened."   

    Although the frightening frequency of mass murders in the United States continues unabated, Schwyzer said, "the difference between this country and Scotland and Norway is that this nation is resistant to such calls."

    The easy access to high powered assault weapons, Schwyzer said, should be one of the first topics in such a national conversation, as well as race.

    In New York City, although white men carry more drugs, contraband and weapons, black and Latino men comprise nearly 90 percent of the daily stops law enforcement officers are obliged to make under the police department's "stop and frisk" policy.

    Mass murderers, even though the vast majority of them are white, attract hardly any attention, if any at all, from police officers.

    Schwzyer maintains that law enforcement officers, no matter their race or ethnicity, do not see white men as potential perpetrators because of race.
              
    "Police officers look at black and Latino men through white eyes and (thus) see a threat," he said.  Black and Latino officers, including the women, he added, "also see black and Latino men as threats because they are trained to do so."

    All the officers, Schwzyer explained, "see through white eyes, so when they see white men, they don't see a threat, no matter how dangerous those white men may be.  Its a survival mechanism."

    In response to whether the nation's police forces would have long since put profiling mechanisms into place if mass murderers were overwhelmingly black, Schwyzer replied quickly.  "Absolutely," he said, without any hesitation.    
                           
    Given the lack of a national conversation and a focus on potentially dangerous white men, more mass murders should be expected, Schwyzer said.

    "What a wonderful world it would be if no more were ever committed, but it would be naive in the extreme to believe that there won't be more of them, especially since assault weapons are so available."

    For Beavers, in addition to easy access to assault weapons, "the culture of white supremacy," which he said "is about permission for white men," is the primary culprit in the high frequency of the nation's mass murders.

    Beavers believes white males internally say, "I've got the permission to do what I want, because I'm white."  The society has rules, Beavers told BlackAmericaWeb.com, "but some rules are more lenient than others."  

    America, Beavers said, "was founded on their beliefs and on Plymouth Rock. So, white men say, 'this our country, the laws that were made were made for us, to protect our culture, so we can do what we want to do.'"

    This, Beavers said, "is not to say that some mass murderers are not psychotic; they could be, and neurotic, too."

    But mass murderers also say, according to Beavers, "my parents taught me white is right, so, whatever I do, I feel justified in doing."  But, Beavers noted, "we call that being delusional."

    "Regardless my mental state," Beavers concluded, "if there's accountability, from the very beginning, across the board, I'm much less likely to do that anything that brings punishment with it."
     

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