On Terrorism and White Men

CNN anchor Don Lemon is taking some heat today because he said that white men are the biggest terror threat to this country. (https://www.businessinsider.com/don-lemon-says-on-cnn-the-biggest-terror-threat-to-the-us-is-white-men-2018-10) This he said as a Jewish community in Pittsburgh reels from the actions of an angry white man who killed 11 people who were worshiping in their synagogue, and as families of two black people grieved the murders of their loved ones by a white man who is said to have said to another white man who tried to stop him, “whites don’t kill whites.”

Don Lemon

In spite of the pushback, what Lemon said is true. According to data compiled in a February 2018 article which appeared in Mother Jones, (54 percent of 97 mass murders committed since 1980 were committed by white men.)

Entire cities inhabited by black people were destroyed by mobs of angry white men, including the Greenwood community of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Elaine, Arkansas. While some of the attacked cities managed to survive the attacks, the fact is that many blacks were killed in cities including Rosewood, Florida (https://timeline.com/all-black-town-rosewood-wiped-off-the-map-by-white-mob-73ca6630802b) and East St. Louis, Missouri.

Angry white men murdered African Americans, many still in uniform, when they returned home after their tours of service. The horrific beating of Isaac Woodard is one of the best-known attacks which fall into this category. He was beaten by a mob which included law enforcement officers because he dared ask a bus driver to stop so that he could go to the bathroom. In Elaine, Arkansas, an African American soldier, Leroy Johnston, who had spent nine months in a hospital recovering from wounds he received in the war, was pulled from a train and shot to death by angry white men. (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/death-hundreds-elaine-massacre-led-supreme-court-take-major-step-toward-equal-justice-african-americans-180969863/)

White men lynched black men (and women as well) with impunity, knowing they would most likely never be held accountable. White men lynched a young teen named Emmett Till, who reportedly whistled at a white woman. Thousands of black men were killed by mobs of white men. (https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/emmett-lynching-america/)

Records show that nearly 4000 blacks were lynched in the South from 1877 to 1950 (https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/10/us/history-of-lynchings-in-the-south-documents-nearly-4000-names.html). White men attacked the Murrah Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

Between 1982 and 2018, 59 of 104 mass killings, which I consider to be acts of domestic terrorism, were committed by white men. (https://www.statista.com/statistics/476456/mass-shootings-in-the-us-by-shooter-s-race/). The targets were not always black people, but the facts show that it has been white men who have been the primary assailants in mass killings.

It is disingenuous for anyone to raise an eyebrow at what Don Lemon said, given the available history. White men were known to lynch black people at will, for “crimes” including registering people to vote or being out too late at night. These are not made up stories; they are recorded history.

It is baffling as to why white men in this country have been so angry for so long. The world is at their fingertips, or so it seems, but maybe the anger comes because “the American dream” eludes so many Americans, including white men. Maybe they are angry because they have not been able to benefit from what they believe is their right as white men. Again, it is notable that they have not always targeted people of color; they have killed many of “their own” as they have expressed their rage through mass killings.

As bitter a pill as it may be to swallow, Don Lemon was correct. In these days of heightened racist and hateful rhetoric, it is very possible that this country will so more white men lashing out.

Our society has basically looked the other way when it has come to acknowledging how radicalized white men have terrorized and killed so many people. It is and has been domestic terrorism. Rather than criticize Lemon, perhaps we should all do a careful study of history and work to understand why what he said is true.

A candid observation …

White Anger, Black Anger

When Newt Gingrich did his “Contract with America” in 1994, it was said to be the result of the anger of Republicans. They were angry at the way government was going; because of big government, the supporters of the contract said, the “American Dream” was out of reach of too many families. The movement was propelled along by white men who were angry; their reasons were their own.

In the Atlantic Constitution in July of this year, there was an article about angry white men; the reporter of the story, Clete Wetli, wrote that “America is finally realizing the true damage caused by far right religious conservatives and the Republican Party who have spent decades fueling and manipulating the hatred of angry white men.” Wetli writes:
They are angry they lost the “War of Northern Aggression”. They are angry that some people get help from the government. They are angry that ‘Mericuh has a black President. They are angry that people have sex for recreation instead of procreation. They are angry that gays are ruining their third marriage. Heck, they are angry that lawn darts were recalled and that women think they should be paid the same as men… in the army! (http://www.al.com/opinion/index.ssf/2015/06/the_rise_and_fall_of_the_angry.html)

In that article, Wetli writes that white men are angry because “they have to be politically correct and they don’t really know what that means.”

Michael Kimmel, in his book Angry White Men, delves into the reasons white men are angry, noting that much mass violence comes from white men. They feel like history has blindsided them, Kimmel says, and writes:
Today’s Angry White Men look backward, nostalgically at the world they have lost. Some organize politically to restore “their” country; some descend into madness; others lash out violently at a host of scapegoats. Theirs is a fight to restore, to reclaim more than just what they feel entitled to socially or economically — it’s also to restore their sense of manhood, to reclaim that sense of dominance and power to which they also feel entitled. They don’t get mad, they want to get even — but with whom? (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-kimmel/americas-angry-white-men_b_4182486.html)

Much has been written about the anger of white men, and in some ways, their anger is given support and the systems in place which have caused and supported white supremacy lend a sympathetic ear, for the most part.

So, yes, we know that white men are angry, even if we do not understand why, given the fact that in this society, and perhaps in this world, they are the most privileged of all people.

But what about the anger of black people?

Nobody likes to talk about that anger; indeed, it is looked upon as a weakness, or worse, to be angry if you are black. President Obama has been careful not to appear “angry;” Michelle Obama was at one point early in the Obama administration characterized as “angry.” Black anger is deemed to be wrong, unreasonable, misplaced and misguided. Anger at having endured oppression sanctioned by the government has been flicked off, and black people have been told to “just get over it.”

But how can black people not be angry?

The latest assault to the soul of Black America came just yesterday with the Grand Jury in Cleveland refusing to indict the police officers who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice. Within seconds, that child, holding a toy gun, was gunned down by trigger happy (perhaps angry) white police officers. He lay on the ground and his sister, who wanted to go to his aid, was roughed up and handcuffed by those same officers.
He was a child, for goodness’ sake, holding a toy gun in an open carry state. The police shot first and asked questions later.

And this has been the history of black people and law enforcement in this country for decades.

Why in the world would anyone think black people should not be angry?

Anthony Ray Hinton, falsely accused and convicted of murder and who spent 30 years in solitary confinement on Death Row, said that when he was arrested, the officer told him he would be convicted, even though he, the police officer admitted that Hinton had “probably not” committed the crime of which he was accused. Why would he be convicted? Hinton said the officer said, “because you are being accused by a white man, because the prosecutor is white, because the judge will be white, because the jury will be white, and because your court-appointed attorney will be white.”

Most black people do not get that kind of up-front, in-your-face admission of white oppression, but it has existed for decades. Black people have endured being treated like objects in this country blacks built – free labor given at the behest of white people – and have endured never being given credit for that same work. Black parents have pushed through and found ways for their children to get a decent education in spite of despicable public schools in their neighborhoods. Black people have endured the humiliation of being sought to fight for this country and being denied basic rights once their service to this country was completed.

Why in the world would black people not be angry?

It is one of the biggest ironies in this nation that angry white people rebelled against their British oppressors because they hated being oppressed, but those same angry white people have not been able to understand or appreciate the anger of black people who are likewise tired of being oppressed.

Is it that black people are still seen as being sub-human, with no capacity to feel pain?

The mother and family of Tamir Rice were already devastated by the fact that he was killed by police …for just being black but being in the wrong place at the wrong time, looked upon as a beast and not a child…but now they have to endure, as have so many black parents, the indignity of this system saying that his death was the result of justifiable force rendered by police. It’s the same song black parents have heard for decades.

This government has not ever protected black people; it in fact participated in thousands of lynchings over the years. It has passed laws that protect the right of white people to oppress black people.

So, why is it a problem that black people are angry?

Could any of the angry white men survive a nanosecond under the kind of oppression that white America has rendered to black people, with government support?

I think not.

Maybe it’s white men …who should get over it.

A candid observation ….