Four Views -- What Moves Young White Males to Deadly Violence
ANGER AS AMERICAN AS APPLE PIEBy Mark SchurmannThere is rage in white men, but it does not have a common target nor is it fueled by white supremacy.We live in a self indulgent society. White men are taught from a young age that anger is healthy, a form of self expression that needs to be served. For example, in every discussion of the death penalty someone asks, "What would you want to do to the criminal who kills your mother or father?" A question asked to elicit an emotional response, primarily anger.Ten years ago we saw anger in the inner cities -- "black on black crime" -- and people shuddered at the thought of the hopeless, careless black youth, "superpredators" who killed because they believed they could never really live.This was a tragedy we never truly confronted. Perhaps afraid of crossing the line between black and white, or the line between rich and poor. We turned our backs -- making sure our kids always skirted the bad neighborhoods.Now as inner city communities have achieved some measure of peace and vitality, Americans have been thrown into shock by the numerous acts of violence committed by whites -- mostly young men -- over the past year and a half.It must be the gun manufactures in collusion with nintendo and violent, irresponsible TV shows, we are told. But a closed fist can be as frightening and as deadly a weapon as any gun.Those two kids sitting in that Laramie Wyoming courtroom with stunned expressions on their baby faces, terrified by the enormity of the consequences they faced -- what did they look like when they crucified that poor gay college kid? Smug, self righteous, satisfied and completely unaware of the consequences of their acts. They didn't use guns or even knives, just their fists.That young man from Jasper Texas walked to and from the courthouse through crowds that wanted his head ripped off.Is the anger in young white men any different from the anger of young black men, any different from the anger of young Balkan men against their former neighbors or the anger in the young crowds of Indonesia that rioted during the economic hardships?I don't think so.Anger is nurtured in this country, and people are taught that it is the best solution to both society's and an individual's problems. Black men who attended the Million Man March said they were astonished that so many brothers could come together in the spirit of self redemption, and ask forgiveness from each other. The feeling of dignity and goodwill emanating from the crowd was apparent even to someone watching on television.Analysts over the past few years have tried to pinpoint the reason for the drop in crime in inner cities. Perhaps a solution to the violence in America is Farrakhan's radical notion of an open embrace rather than the closed fist.A MATTER OF GENDERBy Evelyn ThorntonThey're privileged white males -- the rulers of our society -- so why do they kill? Many theories are offered, from violent entertainment to the vacuum that now comprises modern suburban life. But if that were the whole story, why haven't young white women struck out -- let alone become targets themselves?I think the very privilege the white male enjoys is at the root of these acts of rage.Picture it: A life of video games, lacrosse practice, football practice, TV, a jeep at the age of 16, maybe a summer job doing some life guarding. The American dream, right? Well why does that dream keep spinning out these freakish nightmares?Having grown up in rural Virginia, I am reminded of my farm experiences. The strongest rooster in the pecking order feels threatened by others who may rise against him and so, being the territorial creature he is, he attacks. The white male strikes out against someone lower down on the food chain -- not the second in command, the nineties empowered woman, but the weakest, least accepted by everyone: the gay man, the black, the Asian. In order to feel strong you have to beat down someone else.The white male is sinking into anonymity -- feeling power slide through his hands. In California, whites are no longer the majority group -- they're just another ethnic minority. And ever since the '60s, the whole gender relationship has been changing, in favor of the female. We may still face a lot of hurdles but most of us figure we no longer need men to be our providers and protectors. We have all these women -- from Hillary Clinton to my mom -- saying, "You can make it, let's hear your voice."Women look up at the glass ceiling today and see possibilities where once there were none. Last weekend, 73,000 people attended the women's world soccer cup game in Palo Alto.While I'm encouraged to move forward, society takes it for granted that my white male peers will be able to make their own way -- find their own voice. This may be fine for many but there is nowhere to turn for those who lose their way. My university has a women's center, for example, but there's no "men's center."Rarely do people disappear from positions of power without a fight. I think that the violent expressions of hate by young white males -- the ten year old with a hunting rifle who randomly fired at his classmates, the gay bashers who crucified Matthew Shepard to a fence post, the 21 year old suburban student who drove around shooting minorities -- represent the young white male's cry for territory in a world where he feels lost.THE BOREDOM OF BEING WHITEBy Lance BonHate. White supremacy. Neo-Nazis. Skinheads. Hate. Power. Power through hate.What the hell is this all about? I'm as white as they come. I grew up with no security. I also grew up being teased, beaten, robbed, bullied by black kids. I have always been poor, and have always lived in neighborhoods where I was often the only white kid on the block.Does this, should this, justify hate and violence? Some people, it seems, would answer "yes," and at points in my life I have played with fantasies of mass murder, white dominance, savage revenge. However I have killed no one, seek no revenge, and my close friends are everything but white.But I do have a sense of what may be driving others. I know a lot of angry young whites from my time in different juvenile halls.White is a plain boring thing to be these days. It seems we are seen as bland, rhythmless, timid, uncoordinated humans who live in fear of being uncool. Who is worshipped in the sports industry? Who is portrayed as the suave, cool, sexually secure and GQ in television commercials and shows? Not whites.Another ingredient could be the social flavor of the areas that seem to be breeding grounds for white supremacy and hate crimes in this country -- a lot of the towns and cities are boring places with very little cultural diversity. A lot of them have very deeply rooted racial beliefs that go back generations.My mother grew up in such an area, and the very racist belief system instilled in her remains to this day. However, she raised me in San Francisco, where you constantly rub shoulders with just about every type of ethnicity there is. San Francisco is a non stop lesson in cultural flavor -- food, music, facial features, clothing style of every variety flood the city's streets. All these things overpowered the racist attitudes of my mother, and allowed me to see through versatile eyes.I believe boredom makes people vulnerable, easily distracted by anything presented to them in a convincing way, including white supremacist doctrine. Feelings of racial inferiority, racial intimidation, insecurity, a desperate desire for cultural power, the violent influences we are all force-fed while growing up, our society's obsessive blood lust and the suffocating intensity with which the media reflect this lust -- as well as ignorance and lack of worldliness in these young white males is a large part of the problem.YOUNG, WHITE, MALE -- AND ENRAGED. WHY?By Kate O'brien"If you are backed into an alley, you have the right to defend yourself,"-- William F. Hale, leader of the World Church of the CreatorIf you are born a white man, you are already several notches above the rest. Your people have profited from the enslavement and persecution of nearly every other race, and will continue to do so. You might grow up believing everything will be handed to you, or that you will only need to do a minimal amount of work.This is at least the common assumption of the middle and upper classes. If it is true, what does the young white male have to get angry about?People act out violently when they feel powerless. Rage is a last resort when the buttons have been pushed too hard and too many times. Men, who are by nature more aggressive, might suffer especially from violent impulses in desperate situations -- and their power is in fact being taken from them, at least on a surface level.Whites are no longer the majority everywhere in America. The white race does not dominate in cities in New York, Texas, and California. This could be intimidating to someone who is used to dominating everything everywhere. Measures such as affirmative action only add to the fear that something is being take from you -- even if it is something intangible, like dignity. Imagine a white man who has the skills and training needed for a particular occupation, is turned down, and sees the job given to a black woman. He feels like a failure.These "outbursts" are not as recent as they seem to be. I think this rage has been churning within the culture for quite some time. In fact, whenever any animal feels threatened it lashes out. Only now, more and more people have access to bombs or guns, so the explosion is a little bigger -- but it's still the same thing. We are still animals, and we do still act out our animal instincts, quite frequently.On top of that there is the guilt factor. Nobody likes to feel that they've done something wrong, or that they should be ashamed of what they've done or what they prosper from. As a white male, you also receive little to no sympathy from anybody else. As a man you are provided few safe outlets for expression, not that most men have ever been encouraged to talk about their feelings anyway. If an adolescent male finds himself depressed or upset he is told to bury himself in his studies, or better yet go play a nice clean game of football. That, in and of itself, is enough to bottle up and explode sooner or later.We seem to forget time after time, that if you let things sit out, they don't go away, they spoil. And then you're left with what we have here. The violence is not new, it's been there since the beginning of time. It's just that somebody pushed the envelope over the edge. Again.Mark Schurmann, 26, lives in New York City; Evelyn Thornton, 19, is a student at Virginia Tech University, Lance Bon 21 is a stained glass apprentice, and Kate O'Brien, 16, lives on her own.