White Privilege: “He was troubled”


President Donald Trump addresses media following the Parkland shooting. Courtesy of the White House

Alejandro Lopez

In the wake of the recent Parkland shooting, a word that keeps reappearing in the media and the mouths of many politicians is “troubled.” Troubled may describe a situation or a person but certainly not Nikolas Cruz. This white young man has left 17 families to grieve and a nation in complete shock. If this crime was committed by any person of color, they wouldn’t be called troubled. Headlines would focus on the fact they were Black or Brown and would blame the action on the color of their skin.

I typed in “Nikolas Cruz” in Google search and with the first four articles that appeared, CNN’s article was titled “From ‘broken child’ to mass killer at Florida school,” and the New York Times’ article was titled “Nikolas Cruz’s Lifetime of Trouble: Family Loss, Flashes of Rage.” What CNN and the New York Times are telling you is to not blame the kid, to look at his past and take into consideration what he went through and more importantly, to look past his skin color.

If you look at headlines from black victims like Trayvon Martin or Sandra Bland, NBC News titled Martin’s article as “Travyon Martin was suspended three times from school”, while NBC Chicago titled Bland’s article as “Woman Found Dead in Jail Had Prior Run-Ins With Law.” Compared to their headlines, Cruz was humanized while Martin and Bland were made were made to look like troublemaker and a criminal.

Being white allows you to be deemed troubled or mentally unstable instead of a “super predator.”

In their book Social Thought and Research, authors William Mingus and Bradley Zopf research how white privilege affects mass shootings and how it comes into play when portraying these stories in the media. In their conclusion they state that white shooters are “labeled as aberrations, anomalies within society, or psychopaths who represent the antithesis of mainstream America. Without the benefits of white privilege, shooters who are not white are forever doomed to be the blackguards of their race, a permanent shadow to those who bear a cultural or phenotypical similarity.” In a sense, being white allows you to not have to apologize for your actions. Being white allows you to be deemed troubled or mentally unstable instead of a “super predator,” a statement made by Hillary Clinton when she described African American kids.

According to the Joel Miller, executive director of the American Mental Health Counselors Association, only three percent of all violent acts are committed by people with serious mental illness and only one percent of all violence using firearms to kill people is committed by people with a serious mental illness. With a very bleak correlation between mental health and general mass shootings, it is obvious to see being “troubled” cannot be a reasonable excuse for someone to commit such crimes.

Courtesy of Creative Commons

Looking at an analysis created by MotherJones, they record mass and spree shootings that have occured within the United States since 1982 to now and according to that analysis, 56 percent of those shootings were committed by white men. Society simply ignores the fact that a majority of these shooters were white, and tries to hone in other issues that make you forget about their skin color.

So please, stop labeling Nikolas Cruz and the countless other white men who commit these mass shootings as “troubled individuals.” Stop giving them excuses. Stop defending them. Stop looking past their skin color and start holding them as accountable as we do every other murderer.