Pax Dickinson tweeted a link to a link from National Review Online in which ol’ Hugs Schwyzer is given a platform to spout his argument that white male privilege is responsible for white men engaging in mass shootings (nevermind Cho, Jiverly Wong, Colin Ferguson, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Malvo, Omar Thornton, Hasan, etc.)
As I pointed out in the aftermath of the Aurora shooting, Schwyzer’s characterization of these acts being the result of “white male privilege” ignores that fact that none of the white men who committed these crimes seem to have been the beneficiaries of privilege:
I don’t believe that schizophrenics and psychopaths like James Holmes, Jared Loughner, Charles Whitman, or George Sodini were privileged in any sense of the word. Anders Breivik was supposedly well off, but he also had a sordid childhood which we can assume incubated his insanity. Schwyzer takes what does seem to be true – that if anyone is going to be the most well off in this society it would most likely be a white person and perhaps a male – and assumes that this splashes on every other white male like holy water. This is a very bulky understanding of privilege and pieces like Schwyzer’s show that the concept is in need of more rigorous thought. It doesn’t even pass the sniff test to say that there is one quality from which all members of a race uniformly benefit from. Some white men may benefit from their particular demographic (politicians or business executives) while some others may actually suffer from it (those pushed out by affirmative action).
If the topic is going to be discussed, the word “privilege” is the wrong word to use. Or the concept must be fleshed out by someone who does not have a feminist or liberal agenda.
The face of white privilege
Was Adam Lanza privileged? Not in any of the ways that matter. He lived in a very nice house and his father seems to have been a wealthy executive with General Electric. But we’ve been taught the very important lesson that “money isn’t everything”. Lanza was disprivileged. He lived only with his mother – a woman who seemed a bit off-kilter. He reportedly hadn’t seen his father or brother in two years. That is either a function of the mother or a distant and cold father and brother. He had mental problems or was raised in such a way that he was isolated from his peers and the rest of society. If he was mentally ill, being that way erases any of the privilege that may have been waiting for him.
It is hard to look at any of the mass murderers on down from Charles Whitman in 1966 as having been the products of privilege. Privilege may have been in their vicinity, but it seems to have missed them.
Blogger nydwracu touches on the same topic but addresses the trope that virulent masculinity was responsible for Adam Lanza’s shooting and those of many other young men:
What, for example, are we to make of American masculinity? Are we to assume, contrary to all evidence, that Adam Lanza was a paragon of it, a modern-day Al Jolson, flaunting his rippling masses of Twilight flesh in the cafeteria and making all the girls swoon, and this is what led him to kill his mother and twenty random children? Valenti’s rat-king “we” certainly ought to talk about it, but a relevant and reasonable discussion would more resemble that of Roissy than anything regurgitated from the reeking latrines of the internet liberal-feminist set. Valenti wants to relate Lanza to American masculinity—but how is he to be so related? Was he a Trayvon Martin, an average male member of an American community, acting on his masculinity in the events that propelled him to the status of a national story? Of course not! The relation of our Lanzas, our Harrises and Klebolds, to American masculinity is one of absence: they lie asocial and sexless at the bottom of the masculine hierarchy, unable or unwilling to learn and accept the rules of the game and too unlucky to win without playing. Where then is the value of Valenti’s implication that the blame should be placed on the game?