What Does the Sikh Temple Tragedy Tell Us About White Men’s ‘Deep Crisis’? [Reader Forum]

In the wake of this tragedy, can we have a real conversation about what's happening with our white men? Readers discuss.

By Channing Kennedy Aug 13, 2012

Last Monday, Rinku Sen wrote about the abysmal mainstream media framing of the shooting in a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Most of the major news networks glossed over the impact of race for the first few days, and when they were made to meet demands for coverage, it featured telling moments like Eric Marrapodi of CNN’s Belief Blog describing Sikhs as "unfairly targeted." Threading all of it together was a treatment of the shooter, a white supremacist, as a troubled lone actor operating under his own self-made logic. It’s a far cry from our definition of a ‘terrorist,’ but the tragic outcomes are the same. As Rinku writes:

Murderous insanity can infect any community, and maybe that leads people to call these senseless acts of random violence. But of course they are neither senseless nor random, and the vast majority of such incidents here involve white men. Racism holds a terrible logic, for a concept with no grounding whatsoever in science or morality, yet too many white people don’t see any patterns.

[…] How many Trayvon Martins, Brisenia Floreses and Balbir Singh Sodhis must there be before white folks question whether suspicion of brown skin is justified? Must I arm my mother and send her to the shooting range if she wants to wear a sari in public?

Rinku also lays out a list of bullet points for real steps to prevent these tragedies in the future, and none of them are to ignore the problem. Here on Colorlines.com, a lot of conversation was kicked off by a commenter saying how tired he is of being made to feel guilty for being white. Reader Michael Metivier has a response:

I am white too, and I can’t afford to feel tired, nor do I deserve to. Because there is work to do. And because there is NO SUCH THING as reverse racism. I will say it again: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS REVERSE RACISM. Prejudice is universal, hate is universal. But racism is a system and an institution whereby a majority given the power to act on its prejudices in ways that are not comparable with the reverse. No matter how "shamed" a news article makes you feel, at the end of the day, you and I both enjoy the societal privileges of being white, even if we don’t acknowledge them or even ask for them.

Example: there’s a pretty damn good chance you or I could walk down the street in a Sikh neighborhood this week and not worry about someone calling the cops because we "look suspicious." Do you think the reverse is ever true for a POC? See the difference?

As does Kwasi Bowman:

When people talk about how OJ killed his wife, I think of how badly that reflects on my community. Mind you, the OJ trial is OLDER than me, and I still feel that way. When a white person commits a crime, no one bothers to bring up the fact that he/she’s white. They speak about how damaged he/she was. He/she is independent of his/her race. That is not the case for us POC. I implore you to take these feelings you’re having to empathize with us POC and, now that you know how terrible it feels to be constantly tied down to conceptions of your race or ethnic group, maybe now you would have the strength to stand up to those who perpetrate racism and the like.

I feel as though, if only for moments, you’ve felt what it is to be unprivileged in this nation. Now you know how we feel.

Annu Saini presents the case against ‘madness’ as a frame:

Wow, so sanist. So saddening. So disappointed that anyone, especially POCs, would write this and post this. As a Sikh woman, I have to endure this tragedy, and at the same time be alienated and blamed / shamed by my community as a mad woman. Trade one genocide for another – which one will kill me?

As mad people, we are killed and incarcerated for seeing the world differently than the norm – how did this man see things differently? As a white man, he chose to participate in the genocide of radical POCs – what is the war in terror?

By calling him mad you put him in the same category as brave souls like slaves that tried to escape their captors (drapetomania) – mad people do not endorse this genocide, nor do we accept him as one of us. He’s not good enough. He is far too normal.

Artemis Eneldo:

The recent anti-Muslim witch hunts called for by Rep. Bachmann, the anti-Muslim inquisitions called for by Rep. King, and RNC surrogates constantly calling the president a "Muslim devil" all fuel violence against minorities including against Sikhs who are misidentified as Muslims by ignorant bigots.

The shooter may have pulled the trigger, but Bachmann, King and the RNC surrogates loaded the gun.


There is always some reason as to why it’s not a hate crime. Oh they have mental issues, oh he was angry, oh he lost his job and has been out of work. All of it is nonsense.

The simple fact that these kinds of perpetrators receive such nuanced discussions, and that no other social group in America does, is a sterling example of privilege that allows these acts to happen again and again. We’ll continue to stop and frisk people with no criminal record repeatedly, but are SHOCKED when an angry white supremacist takes the stop to violence.

The obviousness of preferential treatment in America is nauseating, as is the continued denial of it by the people that benefit from it the most.

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