I have spent the past 48 hours explaining across social media why we have to stop blaming “mental illness” for the recurrence of mass shootings across the US. I cannot stand to argue for another minute why we need to stop making mental illness the boogeyman and why we need to look at the bigger picture.
Mental illness can affect ANYONE. It is does not discriminate. Men, women, children, Black, White, Latino, Asian, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu…there isn’t a single person alive that is immune to this illness. There are is vaccine and no amount of money can prevent it from happening. So why do I share this? The answer is simple. When it comes to mass shootings there is one common denominator: Young White Males.
Putting aside certain anomalies such as the Vegas shooter (older white male,) Fort Hood (Muslim male who pledged himself to Al Qaida,) Virginia Tech (Asian male,) and San Bernadino (Muslim male and the lone female of the group who pledged themselves to ISIS,) we are left with nothing but white men. Each and every one a loner. Each and every one considered “strange” by classmates and members of their community. Each one with no community involvement or extracurricular activities. There’a real pattern here and THAT’S where our focus needs to be.
We can continue to argue “gun control” vs “mental illness” for another 19 years and frankly, it’s not going to get any better until we decide to focus on the core problem. And before you even say it, I will. White males are the most privileged demographic of our society. They don’t have to deal with sexism or sexual harassment in the work place or a school like women do. They don’t have to deal with the challenges of immigration or discrimination or racial injustice. They don’t have to think twice about being the target of racial profiling or the challenges of living in the “inner city” or being at a disadvantage because of cultural differences. So why are they SO DAMN ANGRY?
I first posed this question yesterday not because I was thinking anyone had the right answer but because I’m the mother of young, white males. I stopped and thought to myself, “I fit the description of most of the moms who children have committed such acts of violence.” If you watch the Ted Talk of Susan Klebold who’s son was one of the two shooters at Columbine, she seems like a perfectly loving, warm mother. She’s educated, her family had a nice home in a nice community. They weren’t struggling financially. Yet her life has become synonymous with destruction, fear, murder and suffering.
I wonder what it is we are missing. What can we do to stop this viscous cycle? Are we not there enough for our kids? Are we not really listening to what’s going on? Are we just brushing off social and emotional struggles as simply “high school drama?” Are they overworked, overprogrammed or the exact opposite? Are we not paying attention to them being bullied or ignored by their peers? Are the schools not doing enough? I can keep asking questions but I rather not because I need answers.
We have to take a real good look at who we are as a society, as people in our community, as leaders, as a family unit and as parents and decide who we WANT to be. I don’t believe anyone wants to be known as the parents, educators, or community members of one of these angry white males. In order to do that, we have to stop the problem in its tracks.
Let’s work on being kinder to each other, teaching our kids to be kinder. Let’s work asking that lone student to join us for lunch and avoid posting things on social media that could be perceived as hurtful or neglectful. Let’s empower our children to speak up and share with us. This isn’t just an angry, white male problem. This is an everybody problem and everybody has to be part of the solution.