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 …

Suicide, Walking

Is suicide not as common in urban areas, most specifically amongst black and brown people, or do we just not hear about it?

I watched Blackboard Wars on OWN, and happened to hear Don Lemon of CNN have discussions about mental illness and suicide on the same evening. In Blackboard Wars, the prevalence of mental illness among urban high school kids in New Orleans McDonough High School, was brought to light. I wasn’t surprised, as I have long believed that many children in urban areas suffer not only from mental and physical ailments that are not diagnosed, or, if diagnosed, not treated because of economic constraints. If one adds to the presence of mental illness the many pressures from home these kids have, the often deplorable conditions of their schools, and their fear of street violence, and the fact that many of these kids are labeled “behavior problems”  by both their parents or guardians and their teachers, one has to come to the conclusion that many of these kids are depressed…yet we don’t hear of it. We know that many urban kids do not believe they will make it out of their 20s. We also know that urban kids, especially brown and black urban kids, are more often arrested by police even when they have done nothing wrong. They stand in courthouses and listen to police lie about what they have done, and they have nobody to advocate for them. (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/03/opinion/sunday/why-police-officers-lie-under-oath.html)

We hear of urban kids being shot and killed (and nobody seems to care), but we rarely hear of them shooting themselves or hanging themselves. Is that because it doesn’t happen or is it because our society doesn’t think it’s newsworthy to report it?

Studies show that the rate of suicide among black males rose about eight points from 1980 to 1993, and the rate of suicide amongst black females did not change much at all during that same time period. (http://www.faqs.org/health/topics/44/Suicide.html) But why not? Surely the conditions under which urban kids live could inspire anyone to take his or her own life.

Could it be that the suffering for urban youth is so deep and so emotionally brutal that they have cut themselves off from their feelings? Viktor Frankl, in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, writes that the suffering of the Jews during the Holocaust was so extreme that they able to withstand the brutality of their surroundings only by become immune to their own capacity to feel. What they endured is mind-boggling, yet they called upon inner resources to keep them going. Could it be that urban kids have done the same? Could it be that the rash of gun violence in urban areas is indicative of suicide by another name? the shootings happen with regularity because, I believe, the kids no longer see other kids – or adults, for that matter – as human beings. The only way they can kill so indiscriminately is for them to think of their victims as targets for their bullets, not as people with feelings. Yet, at the end of the day, they must still think that what they have done is wrong …or can they feel that way? Maybe their not acknowledging their feelings keep them afloat. Maybe their form of suicide is in what they do – killing other people, and in so doing, they kill a little more of themselves. They have no hope, many of them, no dreams. They don’t care if they live or die. So they become dead kids walking. They don’t care anymore, what happens to them or to anyone else.

. Urban kids hurt like everyone else. Hurting kids in the suburbs often kill themselves by hanging, or shooting themselves…Yet black and brown kids carry around the burden of racism and poverty, which makes racism that much more rancid.  . They see and feel all of the problems suburban kids do, only they see it through this dual prism of racism and poverty. They are bullied; they deal with issues of sexual orientation; they deal with parents who do not have time for them, but we don’t hear about them hanging or shooting themselves all the things that suburban kids do…

I don’t know what they do…but I know they do something. All living creatures do something when they are in pain because they want the pain to stop.  What if this nation looked upon the problem of urban kids killing each other as the opportunity to see into the psyches of tormented souls, souls that stopped hoping, dreaming, and believing that things will ever get better? Would that kind of insight and intuition help us deal with the issue of suicide in general?  What if we could look at suicide from the perspective of what we see in urban America? Would the suicide, or could the ongoing suicide, by way of senseless homicides, of urban kids be reduced? The kids are not hanging themselves. They are killing each other.

Now that I think about it, what do kids in Appalachia do? Native American kids? Kids who live with a steady stream of hopelessness? We hear sometimes about Native American kids being alcoholic. Is that their form of suicide- killing themselves bit by bit?

Feeling hopeless hurts.

And yes, I am saying that the homicide we seeing in urban America is a form of suicide.

A candid observation …