There is a common thread between the recent mass shootings in Buffalo, Uvalde, Texas, and Laguna Beach, California, the January 6 uprising, the daily police fatality,, and Roe v Wade’s overthrow. Add to this list the critical race theory and gay American discussion bans in public schools across the country. It’s the tangled web of violent white supremacy or at least the threat of it.
The aim here has always been to terrorize, cringe, exploit, and marginalize anyone who is not a straight white male. While white men are the primary practitioners of violent white supremacy, one need only subscribe to its main tenets – racism, elitism, narcissism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and control over the bodies of women and the marginalized – to be one.
White men who are seasoned white supremacists and their fellow travelers have created. They will continue to develop hypothetical pain, contempt, and people (especially theoretical children) to create their ideal nation-state. One that fully represents their worldview while completely denying the rights and humanity of everyone else. And while hate can trigger white supremacists to commit their domestic terrorism, power and the pursuit of it is the eternal fuel for white supremacy.
The recent near-violent incident in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, is another example of this apparent contradiction between the rhetoric surrounding protecting children (in this case, from the harm of queer “indoctrination”) and the intentional damage of hurting and killing people over strangeness.
Police arrested 31 white supremacist group Patriot Front members as they were about to riot at a local Pride event on June 11. Each group member wore a blue shirt with the words “Reclaim America” printed on the back. In response, white supremacists have issued death threats to members of the Coeur d’Alene Police Department. The gall of law enforcement officers to arrest white supremacists in a country where many police officers are “fellow travelers” to white supremacists? This explains why white supremacists would respond to their arrests with threats to kill the police in Idaho—the law enforcement officers there went against the white supremacist code.
It seems hypocritical for conservatives to champion policies against hypothetical harm to children while doing little or nothing to prevent mass shooters from regularly mowing down living and breathing children in classrooms or anyone else. Or to talk about making schools safer with more armed law enforcement officers, even though the police in schools would rather overcharge children than stop an active shooter.
Politicians have fought for laws banning the teaching of critical race theory, slavery, racism, queerness, and queer authors, claiming that this information can traumatize children while also promoting anti-abortion laws to “protect the unborn.”
But there is no hypocrisy here. Among so many others, the recent mass shootings at the Tops supermarket in Buffalo, New York, and Ross Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, result from an American gun culture that grew out of the larger American culture of white supremacy. That culture is encoded in America’s DNA and drives these supremacist policies supposedly designed to protect children and other hypothetical innocents.
As author Jonathan Metzl has discussed, the culture of white supremacy is evident in the drumbeat of American death, COVID-19, opioid abuse, suicides, and mass shootings, all part of death by whiteness.
This is more than the accusation that the current GOP is a “death cult” and certainly more than the violence embedded in Hollywood movies, video games played from Kenosha to Korea, or in popular music lyrics of the past century.
The violence is wrapped in the Americana that is white supremacy, violence that encourages neglect, poverty, abuse, and misery. For those who practice gloriously white supremacy, those so-called others who suffer under racist, sexist, and transphobic policies—and those who die as a result—are a residual reward, a high that always brings ecstasy.
The violence of white supremacy doesn’t even have to be direct. Consider the Supreme Court ruling on abortion. With just a few hundred keystrokes, a few white supremacist neo-con judges, and an evangelical anti-abortion rights activist, Roe v Wade destroyed it. This decision placed fertilized eggs — theoretical babies — in front of millions of flesh-and-blood women, including women whose pregnancy complications could kill them.
This decision is psychological terror – especially for women of color, people living in poverty, and people in rural communities who have already faced the greatest obstacles to abortion care.
White evangelicals such as the late Reverend Jerry Falwell, Sr., and Pat Robertson sought Roe’s end for decades. Their and others’ efforts against abortion have often been associated with the racist Great Replacement Theory. Doctor activist Horatio R Storer once asked in 1868 whether the US would remain “filled with our children” in 1868. Former Congressman Steve King (R-IA) tweeted in 2017: “We can’t restore our civilization with someone’s babies otherwise”.
Coupled with Alito’s “domestic baby supply” rule in the draft opinion leaked in May, the historical link between the anti-abortion movement and violent white supremacy becomes apparent. Attacks on curricula through bad legislation are also a form of psychological violence against black, brown, and queer students in US public schools, justified in the name of “defending our children”.
Bans like those in Tennessee and Florida prohibit “school education,” training, and “instructional materials” (books) on gender fluidity, sexual orientation, the prevalence of systemic racism, black history, slavery, and The 1619 Project.
Truly, conservatives and white supremacists want to make students ignorant of America’s ugly past and present and they want the right to pile myths and lies on them and the right to completely erase LGBTQIA+ people from the classroom. All because hypothetical white kids might get mad or ask their parents, “Are you a racist?”
It doesn’t matter that experiencing racism or homophobia, or misogyny every day creates trauma for children, and the majority of students in American public schools are black and brown.
There’s the least possibility the Senate could pass HR 8, the universal background check bill the House passed last year, creating more obstacles for trigger-happy racists to make it clear whether they want to legally obtain an assault rifle (such as the alleged Buffalo attacker and many before he has done). That is if there is a real desire to protect through gun control legislation. But there is too much money at stake for the National Rifle Association, arms manufacturers, and conservative politicians at all levels to turn away from the arms industry complex. Even if HR 8 became law, it would only slow the scale of mass shootings in the US, failing to erase the vast black market for automatic and semi-automatic weapons.
If the US wants to eliminate real gun violence and expose white supremacy, it can follow the example of countries like Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and Australia and issue a total ban on assault weapons. (Yes, this would eventually mean a repeal of the Second Amendment.) But we won’t. America is too addicted to guns and determined to glorify its history of violence and death to consider such a serious move.
For many white men and their allies, maintaining access to military-grade firearms is as important as legislation against reproductive care and telling the truth to children. President Obama once said that when white people “get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or have an antipathy to people who are not like them.” But for many white men, regardless of their socioeconomic status and other converts, violence and its threat is their Bible. Defending the rights of hypothetical children provides the perfect cover for their violent means and ends. They’ve decided that if marginalized “others” have to endure trauma and die to stay in power, so be it.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.