Earlier in the week, I suggested that the Isla Vista shooting “is a peculiar one for the white-privilege crowd to have latched onto.”
The killer’s hideous 140-page manifesto is many things: misogynistic, racist, devious, narcissistic, self-indulgent, rambling, calculating, immature. But it is not “white supremacist” — at least not in any meaningful sense. Indeed, pace Cooper, the shooter appears to have been racked with doubt as to his identity. “I always felt as if white girls thought less of me because I was half-Asian,” he writes in one passage. “On top of this,” he confirms elsewhere, “was the feeling that I was different because I am of mixed race. I am half White, half Asian, and this made me different from the normal fully-white kids that I was trying to fit in with. I envied the cool kids, and I wanted to be one of them.” Really, then, the only way that one can possibly reconcile the facts of the matter with Cooper’s holistic argument is to submit that other people enjoying white privilege caused him to flip. In other words, that, as a half-Indonesian American, he was a minority victim of a white-supremacist culture. One can make that (eminently silly) case if one wishes to, I suppose. But one can’t have it both ways. Critics have to decide: Was he an exponent of heterosexual white male entitlement, or was he a victim of it?
Both, apparently. In a post about — yes, seriously – ”half-white male privilege,” Joan Walsh today makes precisely that eminently silly case, asking:
Why is it so hard to recognize Rodger as of mixed racial descent? It certainly doesn’t negate the role white entitlement and privilege played in his “syndrome.” Rodger is at least partly a victim of the ideology of white supremacy, as well as its violent enforcer.
Ah, I see. Just like the mob’s case against Brian in Monty Python’s classic Life of Brian:
Brian: I’m not the Messiah! Will you please listen? I am not the Messiah, do you understand? Honestly!
Girl: Only the true Messiah denies His divinity.
Brian: What? Well, what sort of chance does that give me? All right! I am the Messiah!
Followers: He is! He is the Messiah!
I’d venture that it’s “so hard to recognize” the shooter as being “of mixed racial descent” because any reasonable person can see that, in doing so, this case moves from being moderately silly to being downright ludicrous. There is a reason why Salon’s own Brittney Cooper spent a good 1100 words rambling about white people without mentioning at a single point that the shooter was half-Asian: It fatally damages her argument.
Still, we might at least give credit where credit is due: The white privilege crowd is nothing if not embarrassingly malleable. Cooper blamed the shooting in California on white supremacy because the shooter was white, and, as we all know, white people are entitled and angry and privileged and they liked to kill people to prove it. “Black men are not rolling onto college campuses and into movie theaters on a regular basis to shoot large numbers of people,” she wrote. ”Usually, the young men who do that are white, male, heterosexual and middle-class.” “How many times,” she went on to ask, “must troubled young white men engage in these terroristic acts that make public space unsafe for everyone before we admit that white male privilege kills?”
Okay, fair enough. That’s your case. So how do we explain the shooting at the Navy Yard? Well, would you know it? It looks like that one is white supremacy, too. Why? Well, because the shooter was . . . black. Here is Cooper in October of last year:
In the wake of Aaron Alexis and the Navy Yard shooting and Miriam Carey’s attempt to breach the White House gates, we should ask ourselves what it means when black citizens get violent in Washington under the long shadow of a black man in the White House. Something is afoot.
What was “afoot,” her piece suggested “cannot be understood outside of the broader set of policies governing the treatment of women and people of color in this country.” “To put it bluntly,” she argued, ”whenever black people start committing spectacular forms of violence — when most psychological profiles understand these perpetrators to be traditionally white males — we should stand up and take notice.”
So: When a white guy shoots up a school, white privilege is to blame. When a half-Asian-half-white guy shoots up a college town, white privilege is to blame. When a black guy shoots up a military installation, white privilege is to blame. Half-Asians are white for all intents and purposes, as are white-Hispanics. But our mixed-race president is a “black man in the White House.”
If this white privilege thing is so pervasive that it can be used to explain pretty much any available scenario, we should surely conclude that it’s not that useful a concept at all? In which case, Brittney Cooper and Joan Walsh should start looking for new jobs.