Early Wednesday morning, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was wounded when a gunman In Alexandria, Va., opened fire on a congressional baseball practice.
It turns out the shooter, who was shot and killed during the incident, was James T. Hodgkinson, a person who had previously expressed anger toward the president and the political system—calling Donald Trump a “traitor.” In addition, sources told CNN that Hodgkinson’s shooting spree was a “deliberate attack.”
As word spread about the incident, Ezra Klein, the journalist who founded the popular explainer site Vox, tweeted this:
Although I am familiar with Klein’s journalism and am a fan of Vox, I admit that I am unaware of Klein’s racial heritage. Yet, as soon as I saw Klein’s tweet, it inspired a reflexive verbal response from deep within my soul that I had no choice but to verbalize:
I immediately calmed down, however, when I realized the favor that Klein had done us all. In 140 characters or less, Klein had managed to condense the entirety of the cultural disconnect that we have all argued about for years. In one sentence, he had so captured the essence of privilege, the prevailing sentiment of willful ignorance and white America’s blind apathy.
It was the whitest tweet ever.
There is a difference between outrage and disagreement. Oftentimes, the people who do something offensive try to paint a picture of the finger-pointers as being “fake outraged” or recklessly casting the term “racist” around. No one thinks Bill Maher hates black people because he used the n-word, and no one is “outraged” about Ezra Klein’s tweet.
Our wide-eyed guffawing at these men is because we are sometimes stunned when white men’s mouths reveal the chasm between the everyday reality of blackness and the apathetic anesthesia of whiteness. Klein is not a racist, and his tweet had no racial intent. It was just dumb. It was entitled. It was just white as fuck.
Klein did try to double back and explain himself, but it came off as defensive equivocating.
The point of Klein’s tweet is mostly correct, but the way he categorized political violence isn’t just “troubling” or “problematic”; it’s wrong.
Klein thinks it’s scary when a powerful white politician is killed because of a person’s political belief, but doesn’t classify the statistic that black men are about 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for using marijuana as meaning that the war on drugs is violent against black men. The fact that white men are 354 percent more likely to get away with murdering a black man in “Stand your ground” states might not seem like “political violence,” but it is. I get it—dead and imprisoned black bodies are not the same.
It is indicative of white entitlement to casually think that a singular white woman shot in the head or one president murdered in a parade 50 years ago is indicative of lessening violence when political ideology has redlined black children into lower-funded schools, makes them 21 times more likely to be killed by police, or has been actively seeking to break up families of immigrants and Muslims.
Political violence is better than it was 50 years ago ... for white people. For everyone else, the incarceration gap remains. The education gap remains. The unemployment disparities haven’t gone anywhere. Housing inequities are unchanged. Police brutality persists.
These are all results of political ideology, and while it is sad when a millionaire politician takes a bullet in an early-morning baseball practice from an unhinged nutjob, Steve Scalise will probably recover.
When he does, he’ll return to the House floor and hop right back into the flow of taking away health care, banning certain religions, rolling back banking regulations and privatizing schools. Meanwhile, as people wither away from cancer because they couldn’t afford chemotherapy because of their pre-existing conditions, when charter schools suck the money out of public schools leaving poor neighborhood institutions even poorer, or when people lose their retirement because a bank gambled on their 401(k), I’m sure Scalise will leave the House floor, walk into a cocktail party with all the other oligarchs strangling the life out of the American people and recount that one day in June 2017 when he was a victim of political violence. Maybe Ezra Klein will be there, too.
If so, he can tweet about it.