Commentary: White People in Denial over School Shootings
In a March 6 commentary in AlterNet, Tim Wise, a Nashville, Tenn.-based
writer and activist, wrote that white people "live in an utter state of
self-delusion" when it comes to school shootings.
Wise made his comments after the latest school shooting where two white
children were killed and 13 injured by a student gunman at Santana High
School in Santee, Calif.
"I said this after Columbine and no one listened so I'll say it again: white
people live in an utter state of self-delusion," wrote Wise. "We think danger
is black, brown and poor, and if we can just move far enough away from 'those
people' in the cities we'll be safe. If we can just find an 'all-American'
town, life will be better, because 'things like this just don't happen here.'"
Wise noted in his commentary that while there is a significant amount of
violence in urban communities and schools, "mass murder; wholesale slaughter;
take-a-gun-and-see-how-many-you can-kill kinda craziness seems made for those
safe places: the white suburbs or rural communities."
He continued, "And yet once again, we hear the FBI insist there is no
'profile' of a school shooter. Come again? White boy after white boy after
white boy, with very few exceptions to that rule (and none in the
mass-shooting category), decides to use their classmates for target practice,
and yet there is no profile? Imagine if all these killers had been black:
would we still hesitate to put a racial face on the perpetrators? Doubtful."
Wise stated that if a black child talked about murdering someone or was
involved in the recent school shootings, "you can bet that somebody would
have turned them in, and the cops would have beat a path to their doorstep."
Yet, he added, "When whites discuss their murderous intentions, our
stereotypes of what danger looks like cause us to ignore it -- they're just
'talking' and won't really do anything. How many kids have to die before we
rethink that nonsense? How many dazed and confused parents, Mayors and
Sheriffs do we have to listen to, describing how 'normal' and safe their
community is, and how they just can't understand what went wrong?"
Wise said he believes what went wrong in the recent school shootings is not
related to TV, rap music, video games, or a lack of prayer in school. "What
went wrong is that white Americans decided to ignore dysfunction and violence
when it only affected other communities, and thereby blinded themselves to
the inevitable creeping of chaos which never remains isolated too long," he
He added, "What went wrong is that we allowed ourselves to be lulled into a
false sense of security by media representations of crime and violence that
portray both as the province of those who are anything but white like us."
As a result of the Santana High School shooting, Wise said he hopes "people
would wake up. Take note. Rethink their stereotypes of who the dangerous ones
He concluded, "But deep down, I know better. The folks hitting the snooze
button on this none-too-subtle alarm are my own people, after all, and I know
their blindness like the back of my hand."