Top Menu Time to profile white men?


(h/t: JD)

The argument being highlighted here is not that we should profile white men, but that profiling, as it exists in this country, targets altogether disproportionately and hypocritically Muslims and people of color, i.e double standards are at work. For some reason, one set of rules applies to marginalized groups and another set of rules to groups in power.

Time to profile white men?

My interview with MSNBC ignites a conservative media firestorm — and exposes America’s dangerous double standard BY 

Yesterday, during a cable news discussion of gun violence and the Newtown school shooting, I dared mention a taboo truism. During a conversation on MSNBC’s “Up With Chris Hayes,” I said that because most of the mass shootings in America come at the hands of white men, there would likely be political opposition to initiatives that propose to use those facts to profile the demographic group to which these killers belong. I suggested that’s the case because as opposed to people of color or, say, Muslims, white men as a subgroup are in such a privileged position in our society that they are the one group that our political system avoids demographically profiling or analytically aggregating in any real way. Indeed, unlike other demographic, white guys as a group are never thought to be an acceptable topic for any kind of critical discussion whatsoever, even when there is ample reason to open up such a discussion.

My comment was in response to U.S. Rep. James Langevin (D) floating the idea of employing the Secret Service for such profiling, and I theorized that because the profiling would inherently target white guys, the political response to such an idea might be similar to the Republican response to the 2009 Homeland Security report looking, in part, at the threat of right-wing terrorism. As you might recall, the same GOP that openly supports profiling — and demonizing— Muslims essentially claimed that the DHS report was unacceptable because its focus on white male terrorist groups allegedly stereotyped (read: offensively profiled) conservatives.

For making this point, I quickly became the day’s villain in the right-wing media. From the Daily Caller, to Fox News, to Breitbart, to Glenn Beck’s the Blaze, to all the right-wing blogs and Twitter feeds that echo those outlets’ agitprop, I was attacked for “injecting divisive racial politics” into the post-Newtown discussion (this is a particularly ironic attack coming from Breitbart – the same website that manufactured the Shirley Sherrod fiasco).

The conservative response to my statement, though, is the real news here.

Let’s review: Any honest observer should be able to admit that if the gunmen in these mass shootings mostly had, say, Muslim names or were mostly, say, African-American men, the country right now wouldn’t be confused about the causes of the violence, and wouldn’t be asking broad questions. There would probably be few queries or calls for reflection, and mostly definitive declarations blaming the bloodshed squarely on Islamic fundamentalism or black nationalism, respectively. Additionally, we would almost certainly hear demands that the government intensify the extant profiling systems already aimed at those groups.

Yet, because the the perpetrators in question in these shootings are white men and not ethnic or religious minorities, nobody is talking about demographic profiling them as a group. The discussion, instead, revolves around everything from gun control, to mental health services, to violence in entertainment — everything, that is, except trying to understanding why the composite of these killers is so similar across so many different massacres. This, even though there are plenty of reasons for that topic to be at least a part of the conversation.

Recounting the truth of these double standards is, of course, boringly mundane, which means my comment on television summarizing them is an equally boring and mundane statement of the obvious. However, as evidenced by the aggressive attempt to turn those comments into controversial headline-grabbing news over the weekend, the conservative movement has exposed its desperation — specifically, its desperation to preserve its White Victimization Mythology.

In this mythology, the white man as a single demographic subgroup can never be seen as a perpetrator and must always be portrayed as the unfairly persecuted scapegoat. In this mythology, to even reference an undeniable truth about how white privilege operates on a political level (in this case, to prevent a government profiling system of potential security threats even though such a system exists for other groups) is to be guilty of both “injecting divisive racial politics” and somehow painting one’s “opponents as racist” — even when nobody called any individual a racist.

In this mythology, in short, to mention truths about societal double standards — truths that are inconvenient or embarrassing to white people — is to be targeted for attack by the right-wing media machine.

Of course, just as I didn’t make such an argument yesterday on MSNBC, I’m not right now arguing for a system of demographically profiling white guys as a means of stopping mass murderers (that’s right, the headline at Beck’s website, the Blaze, is categorically lying by insisting I did make such an argument, when the MSNBC video proves that’s not even close to true). After all, broad demographic profiling is not only grotesquely bigoted in how it unduly stereotypes whole groups, it also doesn’t actually work as a security measure and runs the risk of becoming yet another Big Brother-ish monster (this is especially true when a lawmaker is forwarding the idea of deploying a quasi-military apparatus like the Secret Service).

Additionally, I’m not saying we should avoid the complex discussion about myriad issues (gun control, mental health, violence in Hollywood products, etc.) that we are having in the aftermath of the Connecticut tragedy. On the contrary, I believe it is good news that those nuanced conversations — rather than simplistic calls for punitive measures against a demographic group — are able to happen, and it’s particularly good news that they are persisting in the face of pro-gun extremists’ best effort to polarize the conversation.

But the point here is that those tempered and nuanced conversations are only able to happenbecause the demographic at the center of it all is white guys. That is the one group in America that gets to avoid being referred to in aggregate negative terms (and gets to avoid being unduly profiled by this nation’s security apparatus), which means we are defaulting to a much more dispassionate and sane conversation — one that treats the perpetrators as deranged individuals, rather than typical and thus stereotype-justifying representatives of an entire demographic.

While such fair treatment should be the norm for all citizens, the double standard at work makes clear it is still a special privilege for a select white few. That’s the issue at the heart of my comment on MSNBC — and it is a pressing problem no matter how much the conservative media machine wants to pretend it isn’t.

Also Read: Salon’s David Sirota To Don Lemon: If Majority Of Mass Shooters Wasn’t White, ‘Conversation Would Be Much Uglier’ (VIDEO)


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  • Reynardine

    Amazing, how you widdler-wigglers read off the same damned script wherever you feel the least bit criticized. Am I superior to you? Yes, and so is every other decent person.

  • eslaporte

    The American mental health system is dysfunctional and it is real not a medical field as we would think of most medical fields, ex cardiology. In order to identify the “sick” one looks at behaviors and the people acting out behaviors. This requires people to identify who is possibly “sick” based exclusively on behaviors, and when people do, I believe, they fall back on stereotypes and biases related to gender, social class and social role expectations. I also believe that mental health is used more for social control and social role enforcement than “treating the sick.” The medicalization of deviance!

    You may not know this, but a depression recent study found that the homeless have higher rates of depression than the rest of us? Really? Seriously? I would’ve known, but instead addressing the external, social causes of depression (jobs and housing) – let’s give them anti-depression medications! Low income mothers, as we know, probably anxious over a lot of aspects of their and their kids’ lives – but to the mental health system, this is actually and anxiety disorder in need of medical-psychiatric interventions, not social interventions.

    American mental health is also intangible itself with Big Pharma to turn normal depression and anxiety into mental disorders that require medications. This appears to be targeted at women, low income people and the homeless. Young men from financially good backgrounds (Adam Lanza, James Holmes, Seung-Hui Cho) can’t possibly be mentally sick, nope, they’re young men – so if they are a bit weird, make some trouble (boys will be boys), they have good futures ahead – they are not sick! They can’t possible be mentally ill! It’s the homeless and low income mothers who are sick ones!

  • Solid Snake

    I never stated any of those things you brought up. If you can demonstrate to me that the treatment that Muslims and Arabs receive in the media, politics, and society in general is equivalent to the treatment of Whites (No double standard) I will retract my previous comment.

  • eslaporte
  • eslaporte

    You really mean Army psychiatrists, don’t you? The use of mental health discharges is quite a problem that is in need of corrections. If someone actually had an Axis II personality disorder, they would not make it very far in the Army.

    People with obsessive-compulsive tendencies actually would do quite well in the military. In fact, many are probably officers. But there is NO Way that someone with a real mental problem would make it far in the Army. I’ve had people who I know who work for the VA. They point to a huge file cabinet and say: “these are all personality disorder discharges, but the number of those with a discharge able disorder i could count on my hand. Others who get this discharge, you can’t find their records.”

    No, actually we, again, need to get the Army out of mental health and mental health out of the Army.

  • eslaporte

    Actually a psychiatrist enters the Army at the rank of major, but it’s also likely they also need to go through officer training too, as medical personal tend to be exempt from many other requirements, like age limits.

    If Major Hasan pissed off another above him (like a lieutenant colonel) then there could have been a phony “personality disorder” discharge issued on Hasan. I really doubt that another Army psychiatrist would have went after another psychiatrist with the “personality disorder” discharge – even if Hasan had an actual personality disorder…
    I have read of a instance where a colonel who was a dentist supervisor got a phony mental health discharge on a subordinate dentist (a major) just for reporting the misuse of dental supplies by his supervisor, the colonel. The phony mental health discharge is also a part of officer politics in the army.

    We should like to see and know how many phony “personality disorder” dischages Major Hasan cooperated with company commanders in his “practice.” We should know – and we should know that if he cooperated LESS in these discharges than his fellow psychiatrists – this would mean that Major Hasan is more normal and ethical than the rest, lol!

  • Reynardine

    Interesting. I have heard about this use of psychiatric discharges for “pre-existing conditions” to deny benefits. Of course, that raises the question as to why our military services are inducting the psychiatrically unfit in the first place.

  • eslaporte

    You really must know about Army psychiatrists, as one who has spent time in the Army herself. It’s a dirty little secret that Army psychiatrists are crazy themselves, as is the common joke among fellow soldiers. Most of their work these days involves helping unethical company commanders give out phony mental health (“personality disorder”) discharges to to “troublesome” soldiers who do such things like ask for transfers out of the unit, work for promotions – up to cover ups for rape and abuse of female soldiers. I have heard stories about especially about soldiers getting these phony discharges for reporting sexual harassment. These days they are giving out phony “personality disorder” discharges for soldiers suffering from post traumatic stress from deployment, as well as the usual crap, and stating the it’s a “preexisting condition” for the main purpose of denying benefits and health care to wounded veterans.

    The actually problem is to get the Army out of mental health and mental health out of the Army!

  • eslaporte

    If we look at the truly dangerous in Western society – it’s not Muslims or Leftists – as the American and Dutch media would like you to believe. I read this article in Dutch off of Krapuul – and this also has implications for the Netherlands. The turning of the Theo van Gogh murder into an “act of terrorism” – but also “an attack on free expression.” Rubbish! At the same time we cannot know everything about the last year of life of Karst Tates – who probably committed the worst act of “terrorism” on Dutch soil in the past ten years – when he rammed his little Honda through a crowd of parade watchers on Koninginnedag, April 30th, 2009 in Appeldorn, an act witnessed by people on live TV, by parade spectators – and by Princess Maxima and Prince William from atop of their open air bus….

    Who the truly dangerous really are in terms of local and national security is never, ever determined by actual security threats, but myths and stereotypes about “The Other.” “Jihad terrorism” is not the threat to either the Netherlands or American on the level that insane young men with guns (go and Google Tristan van der Vlis).

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