Innocence in the Age of White Male Mass Shootings

David J. Leonard writes on the Huffington Post that as a white man, he's repeatedly given chances to explain away his bad behavior. He argues that the same thing happens in the U.S. in trying to understand mass murderers, who are overwhelmingly white.

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Aurora, Colo., shooting suspect James Holmes (AFP)

As a white man, David J. Leonard writes on Gawker that when he's wrong he's been given ample opportunities to explain himself. And this American psychology, he argues, rears its head in the process of deciphering mass murderers like Aurora, Colo.'s James Holmes.

The "its suppose to happen" in inner-city communities reframe is not surprising. Places like Columbine, Aurora, and Newton exist because of the fear-industrial complex. The white middle-class flocked from cities into the suburbs and rural communities partially due to fear of black and Latino youth, integrated schools, and urban crime. The continuously deployed the narrative of "its not suppose to happen in Newton" and their neighborhoods mirroring "American family's dream" embodies this entrenched belief. The efforts to imagine Holmes and Lanza as good kids turned evil, to scour the earth for reasons and potential solutions, works to preserve the illusion of safety, the allure of white suburbia, and the power of whiteness.

In imagining the killers as good kids who did a bad thing, who snapped because of a divorce, because of too much medication, because of inadequate mental health treatment, because of too much mental health care, because of guns, and because of who knows what, white manhood — the visible link that binds together so many of these shootings –always gets erased.

"Do you also think it's odd that white men commit the overwhelming majority of mass murders," wondered Nancy Hogshead-Makar, Senior Director of Advocacy for the Women's Sports Foundation, "but that people don't identify that as a causal factor? Instead we talk about mental illness and gun control. If it were Asian women or Jewish men or elderly African-American, it would be topic number one. But not white men." In fact, the media response to mass shootings often reimagines white men as victims.

Read David J. Leonard's entire piece on Gawker.

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David J. Leonard is an associate professor in the department of critical culture, gender and race studies at Washington State University, Pullman.

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