On Sunday night the United States experienced the deadliest mass shooting from a lone shooter in our nation’s history. At least 59 people are dead and over 500 more are wounded.
As 25,000 people enjoyed a music festival on the streets of Las Vegas, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, of Mesquite, Nevada, was perched 32 floors above them in his Mandalay Bay hotel room with an assortment of assault rifles and long guns. Because ammo is plentiful in the only nation that has more guns than people, Stephen Paddock, at a few minutes after 10 p.m., opened fire on the unsuspecting crowd. They were sitting ducks.
No expensive wall along the Mexican border would’ve prevented this.
No Muslim ban preventing immigrants and refugees from a few randomly selected countries would’ve slowed this down.
No, Stephen Paddock, like the majority of mass shooters in this country, was white, and the simple fact of his hue changes absolutely everything about this horrible moment because whiteness somehow protects white men from being labeled terrorists.
In fact, the whiteness of Stephen Paddock has already afforded him many outrageous protections. It’s his whiteness that allowed him to purchase 42 guns and thousands of rounds of ammo, and it never raises a red flag.
While the blood was still congealing on the streets of Las Vegas, USA Today declared in their headline that he was a “lone wolf.” How could such a determination even be made at this point when an investigation into his motivations and background only started moments ago? His home and computers have not yet been thoroughly searched. His travel history has not yet been evaluated. His family, friends, and social networks have not yet been scrutinized.
Stephen Paddock was declared a “lone wolf” before analysts had even started their day not because an exhaustive investigation produced such a conclusion, but because it is the only available conclusion for a white man in America.
Adam Lanza was called a lone wolf when he shot 20 kids at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
James Holmes was called a lone wolf when he shot and killed 12 people at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.
Even Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who walked into a church in Charleston, South Carolina and shot and killed the pastor and 8 other parishioners was treated as a lone wolf.
Hundreds of white men have killed thousands of people in mass shootings in this country, but almost every single one of them is seen as a lone wolf. How in the hell do we have hundreds of lone wolves killing thousands of people? Let’s be honest here – if hundreds of Muslims or immigrants killed thousands of Americans in an endless loop of mass shootings in this country, the response would be wildly different.
This morning, Donald Trump tweeted “My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!”
And that’s fine, but it’s peculiar that he didn’t call the shooter a “son of a bitch” like he did the NFL players who took a knee during the anthem. He didn’t create an insulting nickname for Stephen Paddock. He didn’t immediately launch into advocating for his ban or a wall or changing the rules of the Senate to pass meaningful legislation.
In fact, Trump doesn’t even seem angry.
And we must ask ourselves – why do certain acts of violence absolutely incense Trump and his base while others only illicit warm thoughts and prayers? One man killed 59 people! Where is the outrage? Where are the policy proposals? Where is the condemnation?
What we are witnessing is the blatant fact that white privilege protects even Stephen Paddock, a mass murderer, not just from being called a terrorist, but from the anger, rage, hellfire and fury that would surely rain down if he was almost anyone other than an old white man.
His skin protects him. It also prevents our nation from having an honest conversation about why so many white men do what he did and why this nation seems absolutely determined to next to nothing about it.
I spoke to two people this morning – one was Black and the other Muslim. Both of them said that when they heard about this awful shooting in Las Vegas that they immediately began hoping that the shooter was not Black or Muslim. Why?
Because they knew full well that the blowback on all African-Americans or all Muslims would be fierce if he was. And how sick are we as a nation when people feel a sense of relief that the shooter is white because they know that means they won’t suffer as a result? White people, on the other hand, have no such feeling this morning, because 400 years of American history tells them that no such consequences will exist for them today as a result of Stephen Paddock’s actions.
That is the personification of white privilege – it’s not just being given a head start in society – it’s freedom from certain consequences of individual and group actions.
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