The Santa Barbara Mass Shooting, Elliot Rodger, and Aggrieved White Male Entitlement Syndrome
As I often ask, "what shall we do with the white people?"
When an "Arab" or "Muslim" American kills people in mass they are a "terrorist". When a black person shoots someone they are "thugs". When a white man commits a mass shooting he is "mentally ill" or "sick".
Whiteness and white privilege are the luxury to be an individual, one whose behavior reflects nothing about white people as a group.
There will not be a national discussion of a culture of "white pathology" or how white Americans may have a "cultural problem" with their young men and gun violence. The news media will not devote extensive time to the "social problem" of white male violence and mass shootings.
Elliot Rodger, a rich, white, entitled young man, allegedly killed six innocent men and women and wounded 13 others yesterday. Like Adam Lanza, this would appear to be a case of aggrieved white male entitlement syndrome, one which has led to a murderous and tragic outcome.
In a complementary manner, William Hamby offers up a sharp synthesis of how rage and white male privilege come together to create monsters:
Rachel Kalish and Michael Kimmel (2010) proposed a mechanism that might well explain why white males are routinely going crazy and killing people. It's called "aggrieved entitlement." According to the authors, it is "a gendered emotion, a fusion of that humiliating loss of manhood and the moral obligation and entitlement to get it back. And its gender is masculine." This feeling was clearly articulated by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the perpetrators of the Columbine Massacre. Harris said, "People constantly make fun of my face, my hair, my shirts..." A group of girls asked him, "Why are you doing this?" He replied, "We've always wanted to do this. This is payback... This is for all the sh*t you put us through. This is what you deserve."
At the risk of getting too existentialist, I'd like to propose a very simple and elegant explanation for not only school shootings but a host of other barbaric acts in recent years: White men are having a crisis of both aggrievement and entitlement. One need only look at the 2012 election season to see less brutal but equally mind-numbing examples of white men going mad because they are losing their power. The "Republican Meltdown" is a perfect example of men who previously had all the control escalating to madness when that control was lost...
The thing is, losing power hurts. That's the "aggrieve" part of aggrieved entitlement. It's one thing for a bunch of white men to feel hurt because they are no longer the kings of their own private castles, rulers of all they survey. It's another thing for them to feel like they're entitled to power, and more importantly, entitled to punish others for taking it away. And that -- aggrievement plus the feeling of entitlement -- is what may well drive people like Adam Lanza to these horrific crimes.
Elliot Rodger apparently explained his rage and "alpha male" bonafides as reported by police officials in the following way:
"Bill Brown, the Santa Barbara sheriff, said that “written and videotaped evidence” obtained by the authorities “suggests that this atrocity was a premeditated mass murder”.
“There’s going to be a lot more information that will come out that will give a clearer picture of just how disturbed this individual was,” he added.
Asked about the specific video by Rodger, the sheriff, called it “evidence that we believe is connected to this crime”.
In that recording, Rodger spewed forth his plans to wreak murderous revenge for his failure to find a girlfriend. “Tomorrow is the day of retribution,” the man said. “The day in which I will have my revenge against humanity.”
After detailing how “girls have never been attracted to me,” he threatened to “slaughter” members of a college sorority house – a group for female students - and then “take to the streets of Isla Vista and slay every single person I see there”.
In comments interspersed with sickening laughs and chuckles, he said: “I’m 22 years old and I’m still a virgin. I’ve never even kissed a girl.
“College is the time when everyone experiences those things such as sex and fun and pleasure. But in those years I’ve had to rot in loneliness. It’s not fair. You girls have never been attracted to me. I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me. But I will punish you all for it.”
“I’ll take great pleasure in slaughtering all of you. You will finally see that I am, in truth, the superior one. The true alpha male."
And just as in Adam Lanza's case (and others) there will be no "national conversation" about why white men are 23 or so percent of the United States population and approximately 75 percent of those who commit mass shootings.
Any brave soul who dares to talk about white masculinity, white privilege, and gun violence will be hounded by the Right-wing's dogs--a media machine that cares nothing for the truth. Many otherwise decent, smart, and fair-minded white folks may also recoil at the thought that Whiteness and White Masculinity can be dysfunctional and violent. When an entire social structure has been erected to reinforce the lie that white folks are "normal", and those "Others" are "deviant" or "defective", it can be very difficult to break out of that haze of denial. Such an act requires a commitment to truth-telling and personal, critical, self-reflection which Whiteness, by definition, denies to most of its owners.
White privilege and Whiteness hurts white people. Aggrieved white male entitlement syndrome is killing white folks' children, wives, daughters, sons, fathers, and mothers. Yet, White America stands mute.
Again, what shall we do with the white people...especially if they are so unwilling to help themselves?