Why are lone gunmen almost always white males?

We Are Respectable Negroes wants to know why lone gunmen are almost exclusively white males and what this means about our society, race, and violence.

If James Holmes were black or brown this would be one more signal to the existence of a “pathological culture” among said group. If James Holmes were Muslim American the Colorado shooting would be a clear act of “terrorism,” and an example of the Islamic bogeyman next door who has occupied the dreams and nightmares of the “heartland” since September 11th.

If James Holmes was black, brown, or Muslim, the Right would be wetting themselves in delicious panic and fear and in happy anticipation of all the extra money their PACs would be raising because of it.

In America, folks often ask, “what the hell is wrong with black people?” In the aftermath of the Colorado Movie Massacre, Columbine, and many other incidents, we need to ask, “what the hell is wrong with young white men?

Sadly, that question will not be asked on a national stage. White privilege is blinding. In the case of James Holmes, it also mutes a much needed national conversation about the ties between (white) masculinity and violence.

Indeed, white killers certainly get to plead insanity more than people of color (not that life in a mental hospital is any better than prison.) Our society does seems to search for reasons and causes why it happened much more when the killer is white.


  1. There is a year long course in social science research in the proposion. Notice the implication of lone gunmen (actors intending mass murder) and the confounding of “street violence” by refrererence to insanity defense, What sort of data would actually validate the statement in view of the rarity of such definitive events. I do believe it is a decent hypotyhes and that the answers as to a choice of violent acts or means of “acting out” are in fact cultural. I counter with: “Why are neighborhood, street acts of gun violence disproportionately committed by dark people?” Is that true and if so, what does it mean?

    • About the only thing I’ve seen that conclusively correlates to gun violence is socioeconomic status. Poor people are more likely to use guns than rich folks, who are better protected and more likely to just call in the lawyers.

      • Well, actually the rich are more likely to hire security personnel than actually have a gun on themselves at any given moment if they feel the need for protection. I mean you can’t afford to pay a team of security personnel $100k a month unless you’re rich, so a gun is basically what the poor or middle class can afford to protect themselves. I don’t get your idea Bob that if somebody threatens me and I’m rich that I’m more likely to call my attorney than start carrying a gun or hire a bodyguard that carries a gun.

  2. I consider it a political fact that powerlessness begets violence. In every conflict I am acquainted with (one of which I studied for two decades), violence is the answer chosen by the voiceless… or at least by supposed leaders who claim to want to give the voiceless a voice. extend that to our culture: “group” violence is often committed by those who have the least political voice. Lone gunmen appear to have in common the perception of being voiceless.

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