In my mind the words hung -- like dripping clothes fresh from
the wash being pinned on a line in a torrential rain.
What exactly is the point?
The fountain of my query were the words of the ''Good Morning
America'' newscaster who at the conclusion of his report on the
school shooting in Georgia said the young shooter was reportedly
He said it with such finality that the implication was that
Ritalin was the reason for the shooting. The shooter couldn't help
The shooter was sick.
Which takes me back to the words of my father at an NAACP
meeting in August of '66. My father was the president of the local
chapter in my Illinois hometown. He was talking about the
disparate way in which whites who did something wrong were
regarded in comparison to blacks.
''When a white man climbs atop a tower and kills a bunch of
people, he's called sick!'' he said. ''If a black man does it --
he's called an animal!''
He was referring to Charles Whitman, the sniper who shot and
killed 16 people and wounded 31 from atop the University of Texas
tower before being killed by a policeman. It was arguably the
nation's first mass murder by a lone individual. Later it was said
Whitman had a tumor in his brain that opened the floodgates to his
I was 9 in '66 and in the decades since, there has been little
in the stream of life to disprove my father's words. It remains so
in the wake of the recent school shootings.
It's a tragedy? Yes, I agree.
Race has nothing to do with it? Hmm. So if the shooters in all
these school shootings were black, it would not be regarded a drop
differently? It would not lead to the maligning of young black
males even more than they already are?
A recent story in a national newspaper described the strong
economy and the positive effect it has had even on the employment
of young blacks males, who, according to the article, are the most
''economically disadvantaged, socially alienated group in
While I am no longer a young black male, I remain a black male
with all the slights, assumptions, obstacles, and restrictions
that accompany it. Yes, I reap the negative actions and imagined
actions of other black males, young and old, even though the
actions are ones I may not have individually sowed.
Yet, the fact that it is young white males who have been the
shooters in the terror and slaughter at schools over the past few
years will cast no social stigma on other white males.
There is no exodus from private, predominantly white schools in
the city and public, predominantly white schools in the suburbs to
escape the seemingly dangerous young white male.
There is no trepidation when a young white male steps on an
elevator, gathers in a mall, rides around in a car, or comes to
If I were in the process of wrestling a gun from a ''sick''
white male, young or old, I can calculate with utter certainty
upon whom the arriving officers' guns would be trained.
There is no fear of the white male that is there for the black
It is part of the rights and privileges of being the majority
Race has nothing to do with it?
The killers in such shootings have been white. That does not
mean it will stay that way. Nor does it submerge the fact that
althoughblacks have not engaged in the type of mass school
shootings, there nevertheless are the frequent one-on-one, two-on
three shootings that take their toll.
It's just looked upon differently.
Of course it doesn't. It has everything to do with it:
How we respond to it and how we don't. How we react to it and
how we don't. And won't. Then turn around and swear we can't.
Can't understand why wet clothes fresh from the wash get wetter
when we pin them on the line in the rain.
It's the disparity, darn it.
Frank Harris III of Hamden, Conn., is an assistant professor of
journalism at Southern Connecticut State University and the author
of the book, ''In My Own Words: Race, Humor, Life.'' Readers may
write him at P.O. Box 4500, Hamden, Conn. 06514., or e-mail him at
Frank Harris III's award winning
In My Own Words column appears each Sunday
in the New Haven Register. He is the author of the book
In My Own Words: race, Humor, Life, and is
an assistant professor of journalism at Southern
Connecticut State University. Readers can email him at
here for information about
ordering an autographed copy of his book.
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