Mass shooters prove white supremacy doesn’t have a political party
The anger and hatred that is needed to perpetrate such vicious acts of violence can all be attributed to the same thing: White supremacy.
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By Gloria Oladipo
White supremacist gun violence has been an ever present issue in America. As of September 2019, there have been 283 mass shootings, with a majority being perpetrated by white, cis men.
Among those shootings was one that took place in Dayton, Ohio on August 4th, 2019. After this shooting, news emerged that the shooter had more liberal views compared to previous shooters who followed more alt-right ideologies. In response to this, media outlets, politicians—including the president—and others attempted to use it to argue that violence could be incited by both sides of the aisle.
But contrary to this popular framing, the left or right political leanings of any mass shooter—either the shooter in El Paso or Dayton—doesn’t matter. The anger and hatred that is needed to perpetrate such vicious acts of violence can all be attributed to the same thing: White supremacy.
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As both history and modern-day demonstrate, a massive goal of white supremacy is to control and destroy the “other”: Women, Black and Brown people, queer folk, and others who don’t fit into the normalized ideal. Historically, white folk have achieved this goal through colonization, slavery, and genocide. White “developed” nations treated non-European civilizations as assets, resources to be divided, used to bolster their wealth, and discarded.
Black and Brown people, with our rich histories and traditions, were the “savages,” the “backward ones.” We were specifically subordinated not because of our inherent inferiority, but so that white people could justify our capture and slaughter. Concepts such as misogyny and homophobia were largely imported values from Europe, a deliberate attempt to upend powerful matriarchs that had been happening all across non-European territories.
Today, the tools for white supremacist violence have become increasingly advanced while the goal has remained the same. White governments (i.e. America, the United Kingdom) have legally empowered cops and military personnel to terrorize and kill people of color domestically and abroad. Converse to using science and technology to right historical wrongs, the global north has continued to develop deadly weaponry that will ultimately be used to obliterate non-European civilians.
White nations have rejected treaties and conventions—the slightest attempt at a peaceful coexistence—instead preferring chaos and war. They have hoarded stolen land and stolen resources from those seeking refuge from the countries left in chaos because colonialism destroyed them. They sponsor their own little proxy governments throughout the world, regimes that they know will prosecute marginalized folk. They have destroyed the earth, gorging on polluting energy sources and indulging their endless materialism.
And they do absolutely nothing to remedy the crimes they commit. In fact, they do worse than nothing; they acknowledge their abuse of every marginalized group imaginable, deciding to continue the exploitation for personal gain. Is it really surprising that a nation with such a varied history of white destruction has a problem with white perpetrated gun violence?
This violence, both past and present, does not have a political party. White supremacy doesn’t have a political party. Both sides engage in decision-making that treats disenfranchised groups as disposable. Of course, Trump is a heinous excuse for a president, but in addition to pointing out the obvious, even a passing reflection on the legacy of liberals in office show the ways in which they weaponize white supremacy.
All U.S. presidents, conservative and liberal, pass policies that artificially bolster the wealth of powerful companies, leaving millions behind in poverty. Liberal presidencies carpet bomb civilians in the Middle East. Liberal presidents deport millions and millions of citizens to countries torn-apart from the United States’ foreign policy decisions. The protection of a white supremacist state—one built and accelerated by slavery, genocide, war, and colonialism—will always treat countries and people otherized by white supremacy as discardable, no matter what political ideology they practice.
There are times when some parties practice temporary, more equitable policies such as mitigating climate change or providing more affordable housing options. Passing legislation as a temporary, stopgap measure can be helpful in tearing down barbaric systems. However, even the most compassionate of liberals are only interested in progress, not systemic change. They are fine with policies that are easily reversible and don’t change the fundamental systems where these harms come from.
Democrats support water filters in Flint, Michigan, but don’t want to change the political systems that enable the kind of corruption that leaves an entire city’s water system poisoned. They want increased police presence in neighborhoods, but not an investment in resources that can actually contend with community disorder. Joe Biden’s campaign is built on supporting lukewarm, “moderate” (also known as oppressive) policies; nevertheless, he is still a frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. The support liberals have towards the aforementioned policies and Joe Biden as a candidate demonstrates how easily liberals are satisfied with the temporary—and how aware political parties are of that.
That’s why the discussion on mass shooters—liberal versus conservative—is so frustrating and misleading. The attempt to categorize shooters into liberal, conservative, or apolitical categories assumes that only some of the parties have a propensity towards violence when really violence is foundational to them all. The subjugation and terrorization of the disenfranchised keeps all of these political ideologies afloat. The policies of any single party don’t empower someone to commit such egregious violence, it’s the fundamental desire to control and callously dispose of life, which both parties share.
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Creating these feigned distinctions in the left/right divide has grave consequences. White supremacy creates these divisions to prevent us from interrogating its impacts. When we ask about systems such as racism and classism, we are shamed for not “appreciating” temporary solutions. We are told change takes time, that in the face of growing casualties, at least “something” is being done. Many white liberals have subscribed to the logic of “good enough” when it comes to addressing systematic harms.
If Democrats pass legislation expanding welfare, most never ask why the United States is so okay with a system of such enormous wealth gaps in the first place. If the United States decides to “allow” higher numbers of immigrants, some don’t think twice about the artificial borders created on land that doesn’t belong to us. Many don’t interrogate a system that is shown as having the capacity to do good, easing into a complacent acceptance of the bare minimum.
When it comes to the question of addressing and naming mass shootings, using political categories to distinguish certain acts is regressive.
Regardless of political party, people still died, communities are traumatized, and survivors have to contend with the multiple lasting effects. White supremacy’s attempt to categorize mass shootings carried out by conservatives as more reprehensible is to obfuscate the violence happening among all political ideologies. Any party originating from the kind of violence the United States is responsible for contributes to the harm. Therefore, while making the most of our lives inside oppressive structures, we have an obligation to continue calling out powerful systems that threaten our and others’ existence and well-being—especially when it’s uncomfortable to do so.
Gloria Oladipo is a Black/Nigerian-American first year student at Cornell University. Based in Chicago, IL.