On Tuesday night, I was on HLN with another psychologist named Jeff Gardere. Host Jane Velez-Mitchell asked us why the majority of perpetrators of multiple-victim shooting rampages such as the recent one in Colorado seem to be white males. Gardere, who is black (and while I normally wouldn’t note that, I note it here to give context to his comments), spoke first and made what I consider to be racist comments in response to Jane’s question.
Gardere essentially said (and I’m paraphrasing here) that white males have a unique sense of entitlement and that they therefore become angrier than members of other ethnic groups when they feel that they haven’t gotten their due in life, which then supposedly precipitates resentment-fueled, violent, vengeful, acts like the Colorado movie theater massacre. I am aware of absolutely no — and I mean zero — data to support that position, so I can only conclude that it’s Gardere’s personal theory based on his own personal stereotypical views about Caucasian males.
I then schooled Gardere on air (that’s a picture of me schooling him above), but in case you missed it, I pointed out that yes, the demographics of multiple-victim shooters predictably skew male — the average male brain simply appears to have a greater capacity for physical violence than does the average female brain. There is not, however, any Caucasian connection in my professional knowledge, experience, and opinion.
Individuals have been “going rogue” and committing mass murder in every society since the beginning of humanity. The invention and proliferation of guns has just made it more lethal when it happens. Does Gardere seriously not think that mass murder happens in Asia, Africa, Central and South America? Does the man have no historical perspective whatsoever?
And right here in the U.S.A., multiple-victim shootings happen all too often in inner-city areas, e.g. “drive-by” type shootings in gangland, involving both non-Caucasian victims and perpetrators. If Gardere wanted to make a racially-provocative comment, he could have pointed out that those shootings often get less coverage than events like, for example, shootings in predominantly-Caucasian schools, and I might have agreed that that was worth discussing (I wrote an entire article in 2009 about why some cases get national coverage and others don’t, and I acknowledged a demographic component therein).
But even if we focus solely on spree and school type shootings here in the U.S.A., events like the recent one in Colorado, just in recent memory, there are the “Beltway Snipers” who terrorized the Washington, D.C. and Virginia areas roughly a decade ago (both black), the Virginia-Tech shooter who terrorized that campus in 2007 (Asian), and the Ft. Hood shooter who terrorized that Army base not long ago (Middle Eastern).
If you compare the demographics of multiple-victim shooters to the demographics of the general population, particularly given the relative rarity (thankfully) of such events, I submit that there simply is not a statistically-significant implication that a shooter’s Caucasian ethnicity has anything whatsoever to do with it. Gardere should apologize for his irresponsible comments and confine his future professional public commentary to topics on which he actually has expertise, whatever those may be.
(You can find a complete transcript of last night’s show at: http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1207/24/ijvm.01.html.)