The Sikh Temple Shootings: Why White People Don’t Want More Media Coverage

In the past few weeks, we’ve seen two mass shootings in the U.S. that were committed by White men against targets those men did not know in seemingly-random acts of intense violence.

While there were some differences between the two shootings, the biggest differences seem to be in the identity of the victims and shooters and in the levels of media coverage each shooting has received.  After the Aurora shooting on July 20th, there was ’round-the-clock coverage of the shooting, the shooter’s background, and the implications for culture and politics on every major news network for at least a week, and coverage still leads when any new info breaks on the shooter.  On the Drudge Report and Huffington Post, there were leading headlines with remorse expressed for the victims’ families and takes from the political right and left respectively.

Today, though, only two days after the horrific attacks at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, the coverage of the shooting at the Drudge Report begins halfway down the page.

The Huffington Post’s coverage is worse.  In the entire homepage, there are two articles about the shooting.  One is about some asinine comment that Pat Robertson made regarding the tragedy, and the other, with attention paid to the irony, is an article by Riddhi Shah about why the media seems to care less about this shooting than others.  On the homepage, there’s no scrolling image slideshow of the scene and victims faces.  There’s no analysis of why.  There’s nothing! But there’s plenty of coverage of Paul Ryan!

When I turn to facebook, there are few-to-no statuses of support or photoshopped images of sympathy with the date of infamy.  But there’s plenty of comment on Ryan Lochte!

So, in much the same way that Shah tackles this question, I want to interrogate why people in the U.S. don’t seem to care much at all about the Sikh temple shootings when there was such anger, sadness, and indignation only a few weeks ago.  I’ve heard some argue that there’s been less attention because there were fewer casualties or that people had “tragedy fatigue” after Aurora.  I think it’s something much deeper than that . . . and much more troubling.

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The Aurora Shootings: What’s Wrong with White Men?

Why is no one asking what’s wrong with White Men in the United States?

With the newest mass shooting in Aurora, CO captivating the nation, it seems someone should ask the question.  After all, if we had a pattern of Women walking into public places, heavily armed, and killing everyone possible, you can guarantee the headlines would read, “What’s wrong with American Women!?”

I mean, when Nidal Hassan opened fire at Ford Hood in 2009, the media and politicians were taking Muslim Americans (particularly Muslim members of the armed services) to task, questioning their loyalties, questioning if they were part of an “inherently violent” culture, questioning every aspect of their identity.  The same sort of questions were asked when Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people at Virginia Tech, only directed at Asian American Immigrants.

When Black on Black crime is brought up, few question the realities of concentrated poverty in which the violence is occurring.  Instead, people ask, “Why are Black people so violent?”

One of the powerful things about White Privilege and Male Privilege is that those of us who benefit from membership in these privileged groups do not have to worry that our individual actions will be attributed to everyone who looks like us.  Well, that’s not true.  When our actions make us (and others of our group) look good, it might be attributed to our race or gender.

But when the vast majority of mass murder shooters in the last 25 years fit one particular description, what questions do we ask?  What happens when the shooters look like this:

 Or this

Or this?

  

Are there questions we should be asking about masculinity?  Should we be investigating White culture?  What about White masculinity?

Because if everyone in those pictures were Black or Latino or Female or Muslim, you know their identity would be central to the conversation.  And every person who looked like them would pay a price.