has tragically become a national epidemic
and an inescapable reality
for most Americans. Televised image
s of school shootings show score
s of frightened students being escorted off school grounds by SWAT
teams while hysterical parents frantically search
for their loved ones among hundreds of traumatized high school students.
Meanwhile, Americans are searching for answers to the recent senseless shootings in the predominantly white suburban communities of San Diego where violence and crime have rarely been recognized as problems in the white community. However, the two recent school shootings in the San Diego suburbs have shattered the prevailing myths that link violence and crime to poor working-class minority youths from urban communities.
Sadly, white suburban America is finding it difficult to accept that violence and crime are, in fact, a "white issue." As Tim Wise reports in a recent article: "We think danger is black, brown and poor, and if we can just move far enough away from 'those people' in the cities we'll be safe. If we can just find an 'all-American' town, life will be better, because 'things like this just don't happen here.'" (http://www.minoritiesjb.com/Article_Detail.asp?Article_ID=3606).
In the wake of the recent school shootings, white America continues to suffer from the symptoms associated with "white denial." Supported and maintained by white institutions and the corporate media, "white denial" is both a form of motivated amnesia that suppresses the historical reality of white violence and a media-engineered misconception that locates the blame for social violence outside of white neighborhoods.
For years, the media has engaged in some of the most brutal and callous wars against African Americans, Latinos, Asians, Arabs and Native Americans, in part, by demeaning them as violent, criminal and dangerous. Bombarded by stereotypical images of minorities as drug pushers, pimps, gang-bangers, rapists and welfare queens generated primarily by the media industry, an assumption has been generated among white constituencies that they have little to fear as long as they continue to safeguard their interests by keeping their neighborhoods gated (either literally or symbolically), by ensuring the justice system remains based on white property rights, by abolishing affirmative action, by restricting immigration from Latin America, and by incriminating youth of color.
There has been little effort if any to expose the criminal and violent activities associated with white youth in suburban communities. To debunk racist stereotypes and misrepresentations of minorities manufactured by the media, Wise offers some eye-opening data worth noting. For instance, "white high school students are seven times more likely than blacks to have used cocaine; eight times more likely to have smoked crack; 10 times more likely to have used LSD and seven times more likely to have used heroin. In fact, there are more white high school students who have used crystal methamphetamine (arguably one of the most addictive drug on the streets) than there are black students who smoke cigarettes."
Moreover, studies funded by the federal government have shown that white youths between the ages of 12-17 are 34 percent more likely to sell drugs than African American youths in the same age group. Furthermore, young white adults are twice as likely to binge drink and drive under the influence than African Americans. Perhaps more disturbing is the fact that white male students are twice as likely than black males to bring a weapon to their school campus.
What remains at the heart of this failure to acknowledge white violence is the refusal to connect violence in most of its incarnations (among white, African American, Asian and Latino communities) to the political economy of insecurity brought about by capitalist social relations. Lack of economic security and a social safety net – not to mention the crisis within global capitalism worldwide – has created what many youth believe to be a zero-sum future for their current generation.
Since it is imperative not to question the social relations of production within capitalism and the value system that has grown up around the free-market that makes it synonymous with democracy itself, the media find it a more prudent strategy (given that they are owned by mega-corporations highly invested in capital accumulation) to find scapegoats for social violence than to take a serious look at its historical and material causes.