US mass shootings epidemic is a symptom of white supremacy
The US is home to more guns than people. That’s a lot of guns for a country with a population of approximately 300 million plus.
Barely a week passes, without the news of yet another tragic mass shooting taking place, many of them racially motivated. It’s a deadly epidemic which is spiralling out of control. It threatens to tear the fabric of American society apart. And, the root cause of this can be traced right back to the founding of the country.
The US was built on violence, ethnic cleansing and white vigilantism. Indigenous Americans were annihilated in order to make way for European settlers. Furthermore, millions of captive Africans were kidnapped and taken to the land for the extraction of free labour. They were forced to build the infrastructure of the country from the ground up, while denied basic human rights.
It’s a grisly history, and a far cry from the ideals the US likes to promote. Most importantly, it’s a past which has never been accounted for. All of this had been allowed by the state.
Today, easy access to guns, and the failure to properly identify, criminalise and punish white supremacy is also due to inaction by the US government.
''There is a two tier legal system in the US and there always has been. Unarmed Breonna Taylor was shot dead by police in her bed, no officers have ever been jailed for her killing. The legal system places more value on white lives – even those who have carried out killing sprees – than black lives.''
Entrenched racism and inequality and the ghosts of America’s past, continue to haunt the present with deadly consequences. Indeed, white vigilantism is the reason why there is easy access to guns, and white power is the reason why calls for tighter regulations fall on deaf ears.
Despite FBI director Christopher Wray’s acknowledgment, that white supremacy is the fastest growing domestic terror threat, eating up most of the FBI’s resources, the US is yet to act accordingly.
The so-called ‘war on terror’ it seems, stops at the doorstep of white supremacy.
The Proud Boys and other white fascist militia groups have not been designated as domestic terror groups. Despite the ongoing scourge of shootings by killers motivated by white supremacist ideology, not one executive order to tackle the problem has been signed by Joe Biden.
Furthermore, many of the extra judicial killings of black people have been carried out by the police, an institution corrupted by white supremacy. Yet, we’ve seen no plan from the president to do anything about it. Qualified immunity remains in place, essentially giving police free reign to operate outside of the law, when constitutionally they exist to uphold it.
Rather than a federal push to clean up law enforcement, president Biden has simply allocated more resources for the police.
To make matters worse, there is also the problem of white supremacist sympathisers in the criminal justice system. Former Georgia prosecutor Jackie Johnson, trying to protect the men who murdered and lynched Ahmaud Arbery is but one example of this.
Johnson has since been indicted for her role in seeking to protect Gregory and Travis McMichael.
This culture which remains largely unchallenged, also gives a signal to aspiring white supremacist vigilantes, outside of law enforcement, that they will remain protected by the system built and fortified on racism.
They know that when carrying out shootings, as was the case with the recent examples of the tragic Highland Park shooting, carried out by Robert Crimo III, the likelihood is that they will be taken alive when and if captured by the police.
Some media outlets will run around in circles trying to avoid the obvious similarities and links between shooters. They are almost always young, predominantly white men, with easy access to assault weapons, harbouring deep racial prejudice swallowing propaganda like the ‘Great Replacement Theory’ incubating, validating and fortifying their views on online chat forums.
Some have tried to suggest, as usual, that the cause of such shootings can be explained by some kind of backstory. The shooter went off the rails the narrative usually goes. The killer was not inspired by other white supremacists, but was (yet another) random lone wolf, with psychiatric issues.
The other narrative offered: the parents are to blame. Essentially, any reasoning will do, except for staring reality in the face, which means, acknowledging the past and how it has created the present conditions.
Crimo was reported to have sized up a Synagogue leading up to the shooting. Popular white supremacist iconography and symbols are said to have been visible on his Youtube videos, which have since been removed and he is also thought to have published a manifesto.
A similar instance occurred in Buffalo. Payton Gendron, planned his attack online, published a manifesto and even shared his plan with a former FBI agent, before targeting a black neighbourhood. Gendron was apprehended without a scratch on him like so many other cases including Dylan Roof, Kyle Rittenhouse, Robert Aaron Long…the list goes on.
Compare that with the recent police killing of Jayland Walker, in Akron Ohio, unarmed when shot dead by the police who fired countless bullets into his body.
Walker, a young Black man, had not killed anyone.
There is a two tier legal system in the US and there always has been. Unarmed Breonna Taylor was shot dead by police in her bed. No officers have ever been jailed for her killing.
The legal system places more value on white lives – even those who have carried out killing sprees – than black lives.
There’s another elephant in the room too. The Buffalo killer, was inspired by the white supremacist Islamophobic killer, Brenton Tarrant who killed innocent Muslim worshippers, targeting two mosques in Christchurch New Zealand, in 2019.
White supremacy is a global phenomenon, found in each and every country built on European settler colonialism.
The US however, is a global superpower, and sees fit to lecture the rest of the world on terrorism, while interfering with the affairs of other countries.
But the US is now arguably a nation possibly harbouring the greatest white supremacist threat in the world, and the problem is clearly spiralling out of control. It’s now the single greatest threat within the country’s borders.
At the same time, Republican conservatism is greasing the wheels of the growing threat. They are validating those who are spoiling for a race war, as their figurehead Trump did before the Capitol Hill riots following Joe Biden’s election. There’s little doubt that these white supremacists have been bolstered by that movement. When conservatism fails, it doesn’t reject conservatism, but turns its guns on democracy.
Robert Crimo III is said to have attended pro-Trump ‘stop the steal rallies’ and is part of a growing number of dissatisfied white supremacists who are spoiling for a race war, and who believe their moment has arrived.
The US must get a grip on the problem. How much longer before other white supremacists around the world are inspired and bolstered by the likes of Gendron and Crimo? No doubt, because of the failure of the state, to extend the war on terror to internal home grown white supremacy, it's already happening.
Richard Sudan is a journalist and writer specialising in anti-racism and has reported on various human rights issues from around the world. His writing has been published by The Guardian, Independent, The Voice and many others.
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