Students at Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, Iowa joined their peers across the country in early 2018 in a school walkout to protest gun violence. Credit: Phil Roed, Flickr/Creative Commons.

White people who want to end gun violence need to combat white supremacy

Many will choose to ignore this. They will choose to treat the incidents that happened in Charlottesville in August as isolated. To normalize a president who sympathizes with Nazis and white nationalists. They will refuse to grapple with the rot at the root--that this country is controlled by a subconscious yet pervasive and toxic way of living and thinking called white supremacy. They will choose to ignore systems of violence and marginalization that already exist in our backyards, our prison systems, our segregated schools. It’s easier to blame mental illness than to face up to a system in which all of us play a part. Those who refuse to reckon with these truths then send their children to schools where this insidious white supremacy goes unchecked and fear runs rampant, hoping for greater opportunity, trusting that they will be safe.

Some children never make it home from school.

The most recent school shooting of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida marks the 17th school shooting of 2018. Within the last eight years we have seen the number of school shooting incidents double, and after these seemingly never ending school shootings, we begin to see patterns. Just as a copycat killer steals the methods of murder from the original, school shooters plan and study moves by past assailants whom they admire in both fortitude and ideology. Many imitate Nazis, white supremacist extremists, ideological militants who believe that our already-racist country has not taken white supremacy far enough.

Even though there were previous tragedies involving the murder of students by firearms on campuses by their peers, Columbine seems to remain the most well-known and culturally magnified U.S. school shooting, which claimed the lives of 24 people, 10 of whom were below the age of 17, and wounded many other students and educators. Assailants Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold both openly praised Adolf Hitler (so much so that they chose the dictator’s birthday to conduct the infamous atrocity), and they created a collection of recordings dubbed “The Basement Tapes,” which included their gruesome plans for that day. They also preached their hatred and anti-Semitism online, and the content of Eric Harris’s journal is littered with racist commentary.

Some continue to say that there is no connection or correlation between all of these shootings, yet there is evidence of perpetrators studying previous incidents for ideas. In the report after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in December 2012, in which 20 of the victims were below the age of 7, police disclosed that the gunman, Adam Lanza, researched several other shootings online, including Columbine, the Northern Illinois University shooting in 2008, and the 2011 Norway Attacks on July 22nd of that year, which resulted in the loss of seven lives and was committed by right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik.

After carrying out the Umpqua Community College Shootings in October 2015, killing 10 and wounding another eight, Chris Harper-Mercer was said to seem “hate-filled” and have an attraction to white supremacist ideology. Over half of those victims were below the age of 20. His last upload from a BitTorrent account he owned was a documentary on the aforementioned tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. He donned the username “Ironcross45” on a dating website.

This year, Valentine’s Day in Parkland was filled with sorrow and affliction when Nikolas Cruz brandished an AR-15 style rifle and opened fire within the confines of Stoneman Douglas High School. He killed 17 people, 14 of whom were below the age of 17, and wounded another 15. He spewed racist, homophobic and anti-Jewish epithets in a private Instagram group chat, and posted messages on social media about wanting to shoot anti-fascist protesters. In an earlier post, he bragged about writing a letter to Donald Trump, and actually getting a response. The leader of the Republic of Florida, a local white nationalist militia whose ultimate goal is for Florida to become a white-ethno state, reportedly claimed Cruz was a part of that organization, and later retracted that statement. It is telling that white nationalist organizations would see his actions as worthy of their praise.

Nikolas Cruz spewed racist, homophobic and anti-Jewish epithets in a private Instagram group chat, and posted messages on social media about wanting to shoot anti-fascist protesters.

The culture of white supremacy is a corruption of the mind that commits violence to the human psyche. It is part of America’s grand collection of absurd delusions: that one is weaker simply because of their gender, that one is more entitled simply because of their class, that one is more intelligent simply because of their speech and surroundings, and that one is more superior simply because of their skin. White supremacy also structures our surroundings: The state representatives and members of the U.S. House who fail to pass gun control measures simultaneously advocate for harsher policing tactics, fewer resources for community health, more Draconian rules in our high schools, and fewer protections for women and sexual assault survivors. They support limits on voting rights, tactics of gerrymandering and practices of voter suppression and intimidation in neighborhoods of people of color. They demonize foreigners and enact restrictions on immigration. Meanwhile the McCains, the Rubios and the McConnells of the world take donations from the NRA, private prison and security companies, and military contractors--encouraging militarization and fear, then profiting off of it.

Each of these policies is tied to white supremacy and helps create and reinforce the culture of white supremacist violence. This culture is the very embodiment of violence and oppression which harms the entire population indiscriminately, yet some white folks believe it is not their problem to solve.

Underneath the umbrella of white supremacy lies male supremacy--men who claim to be ‘the superior one’ and the ‘true Alpha male’ like Elliot Rodger, and believe they are entitled to women’s bodies, which breeds violence towards women. Rodger, before plotting to “slaughter” women in a nearby sorority house, is also quoted in a chilling video, proclaiming, “If I can’t have you, I will destroy you.” Kevin Janson Neal also ran amok within a northern California community and committed multiple acts of violence against women before killing four and wounding a number of others including ten children under the age of 10 with, again, an AR-15 style rifle. Both Nikolas Cruz and Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas shooter, also had previous histories of abuse to women.

The recent demonstrations against gun violence since the Parkland shooting are moving, and simultaneously I wish that same fervor would be displayed against this nation’s omnipresent white supremacy. I wish more white people would realize the same young ardent young people in Florida standing against gun violence have united, collaborated with, and modeled their protests around that of the young Dream Defenders and other Florida organizations of people of color who have protested gun violence from militaristic police units and trigger-happy people acting under “Stand Your Ground” laws.

I wish white people would lie in the street in front of the White House, and show demonstrations of solidarity to protest the uprising of hate in our nation with a similar zeal and vehemence. I wish these parents would show up to their college town city council meetings to speak of the impending ruin that the ideology of white supremacy assures, when it visits their campus wearing a three-piece suit, in the guise of “awakened Europeans.” I wish white people showed this same intensity when a daughter lost her parents to an “outspoken Neo-Nazi” pulling a trigger, just two hours away from the largest gathering of white supremacists in the last half century. The victims were white. No one is immune to the bullets sprayed or the cars driven in the intense, seething rage of white supremacist anger at its peak. No one is safe. When white supremacy prevails, we all suffer.

This culture is the very embodiment of violence and oppression which harms the entire population indiscriminately, yet some white folks believe it is not their problem to solve.

We need to act fervently, NOW before we lose more people we love to hate. If we want to fix this, calls for gun reform should be accompanied by a call to dismantle white supremacy, with the same urgency and seriousness. White people must acknowledge that white supremacy is an absolutely real and acute problem. Its symbols stand tall, unobscured, and are protected by law for all to view. Its minions are more emboldened to speak freely in an American government controlled by racism. It is a global concern. It is not an empty rationalization for financial inadequacy or denial of social position. Its atrociousness and vitriol doesn’t only terrorize the livelihood of people of color. It affects us all. White supremacy is a threat to everything we hold dear in humanity. We must fight fascism and end racism now, before it is too late. There are groups to educate white people and there are ways to act purposefully.

No one is immune to the bullets sprayed or the cars driven in the intense, seething rage of white supremacist anger at its peak. No one is safe. When white supremacy prevails, we all suffer.

White children are dying because of white supremacy. I say ‘white’ in the hope to motivate white people specifically; the same white people who stayed silent and neutral while children of color suffer under the aggression of white supremacy. Many white people look away when black children are getting killed by the police. White people look away as ICE deports and displaces millions of Latinx children. No one can afford to look away; white people need to look for the connections between these incidents. The white supremacist violence that is killing children of color is also killing white children.

“One wishes that Americans, white Americans, would read, for their own sakes, this record, and stop defending themselves against it… The fact that they have not yet been able to do this -- to face their history, to change their lives -- hideously menaces this country. Indeed, it menaces the entire world.” - James Baldwin, 1965.

  • About

    David Vaughn Straughn is an accomplished actor, musician, poet, and organizer helping to build the Charlottesville chapter of Black Lives Matter (unofficial) and local resident. He is also an organizer with Solidarity Cville, and a contributing writer for Parle Magazine.