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Trump’s Disturbing Trend of Bullying Black Women

It is not controversial to state that Donald Trump is a bully. Dictionary.com defines a bully as a “blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers smaller and weaker people.” Donald Trump amply meets this description. Though no one is immune to being tormented by him, including members of his own cabinet, he and his administration seem to reserve a special level of venom for black women. Whether it’s black women journalists, elected officials, or even a gold star widow, Trump’s treatment of black women reveals a disturbing trend.

Trump’s feuds with other people, though unseemly, had almost always had at least a veneer of parity. Senator John McCain, though currently fighting terminal brain cancer, is a former Republican presidential nominee, and has served in the Senate for over 30 years. Trump’s feuds with Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, Jeb Bush, and Carly Fiorina began when they were all presidential candidates during the 2016 election. The derisive nicknames and ad hominem attacks he launched at his political foes were unbecoming, to be sure, but at least they were launched at people who had chosen to enter presidential politics. There were times that he allowed the bar to sink even lower, like when he attacked the Khan family, whose son had died serving in the military in Iraq in 2004, but more often than not, his attacks were launched at people who were also wealthy and/or politically well-connected. Typically, when he attacked people who weren’t politicians, he attacked them as an entire group, as he had Mexicans and Muslims.

Then the inauguration happened, and all bets were off. No longer were his tweets and insults reserved for the wealthy and politically powerful or entire ethnic and religious groups. He and his administration set their sights on specific black women to single out for condescension and vituperation. Former press secretary Sean Spicer’s now infamous exchange with April Ryan serves as one of the earliest examples of the Trump administration trying to bully a black woman into silence. While trying to do her job as a White House correspondent, Spicer repeatedly interrupted her and told her to stop shaking her head when he was giving evasive or otherwise unsatisfactory answers. Then there was Jemele Hill, who called Trump a white supremacist on Twitter. She wasn’t the first journalist to have called Trump out for his sympathies towards white supremacy, or even the first black journalist to suggest it. Both Ta-Nehisi Coates and Charles Blow, who are black men, have either stated or implied it, but neither Donald Trump himself, nor anyone in his administration suggested that they be fired for their sentiments the way that Trump dispatched Sarah Huckabee Sanders to suggest for Jemele Hill.


Then the inauguration happened, and all bets were off. No longer were his tweets and insults reserved for the wealthy and politically powerful or entire ethnic and religious groups. He and his administration set their sights on specific black women to single out for condescension and vituperation.


 

Last Monday, in the wake of the Nigerien ambush attack that claimed the lives of four U.S. soldiers in early October, including Sgt. La David Johnson, Trump used the power and prestige of the American presidency to wage a war to impugn the integrity of Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who was in the car when he called Sgt. Johnson’s widow, Myeshia Johnson, to offer his condolences. In a now infamous and corroborated account of the call (which occurred on speakerphone), Rep. Wilson took umbrage to the clumsy and disrespectful way in which Trump executed the call. Rep. Wilson declared that the president told the grieving Mrs. Johnson that her husband “knew what he signed up for.” These words, whether intentionally or unintentionally, conveyed the sentiment that the family shouldn’t be upset at Sgt. Johnson’s death because he knew the risks and accepted them anyway. Trump responded by taking to Twitter to accuse her of lying.

As the imbroglio ensued, the president then dispatched no less than a four-star marine general, in the form of White House chief of staff John Kelly, to get up and launch a mendacious smear campaign against the congresswoman. General Kelly abdicated any sense of moral authority he may have once felt he had the moment he set in motion a completely fallacious and ad hominem attack against Representative Wilson, repeatedly calling her an “empty barrel.” Though Trump had repeatedly denied Wilson’s characterization of the condolence call, General Kelly confirmed that it was he, in fact, who had inspired the president’s use of the phrase “he knew what he was signing up for.” Of course, this jibes with the congresswoman’s account of what was said, but Kelly used his opportunity to set the record straight as the time to smear the congresswoman. The general falsely claimed that Representative Wilson had taken the occasion of an FBI building ceremony to lavish praise on herself for having obtained the funding for the construction of the building. Video evidence surfaced within 24 hours revealing that Kelly’s characterization of Wilson’s behavior at the event was a complete falsehood.  Wilson never mentioned money. She never praised herself. She never claimed to have been instrumental in getting the funding. Still, the White House, and the president himself maintained their attacks.

When no less than Myeshia Johnson, the gold star widow at the center of the controversy, sat down for an interview yesterday on Good Morning America to give her version of events–a version of events that matches perfectly with the one Congresswoman Wilson described–the president then took swipes at her on Twitter. Let that sink in. The sitting president of the United States attacked the credibility of a gold star widow who had just buried her husband 48 hours ago. Mrs. Johnson said that Trump not only made the “he knew what he was getting into” comments, but he didn’t even know her husband’s name when he called her. There she was–beautiful, dignified, gracious, and poised–giving an explanation she owed no one, and Donald Trump felt that even she was fair game for his vile and odious attacks on Twitter.

 

The question remains as to why the president and his administration pick fights with and single out black women whom they know are less powerful than they are. The Trump administration hates all media, but it was only April Ryan they tried to strong-arm into not shaking her head, in a move that stunned even her journalism colleagues. Jemele Hill wasn’t the first journalist to suggest that Donald Trump was a white supremacist, but she was the first one that the administration called on to be fired for criticism of the president. Congresswoman Wilson was not only the congressional representative from the underserved community of South Florida, she was also a close family friend of the Johnsons who shared in their grief at La David Johnson’s passing, and was therefore uniquely qualified to speak about the family’s dismay. Congresswoman Wilson is certainly not the first elected official who has criticized Trump for his behavior. Yet, it was only Congresswoman Wilson for whom the president recruited the gravitas of his typically camera-shy four star general chief of staff to discredit for her accurate rendering of the disputed condolence phone call. And then we have Myeshia Johnson—a 24 year-old pregnant war widow and mother of two from Miami Gardens. Her husband rode the bike to his job at Walmart every day and laid down his life on the battlefield in Niger. If ever there existed anyone to whom a Commander-in-Chief should grant deference, it would be her, but Trump unaccustomed to the general decency with which most of us are familiar, was unable to offer even that. When asked if she had anything she would like to say to the president, Mrs. Johnson simply replied, “No. I don’t got nothing to say to him.” If only the president showed her level of restraint and grace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Singled Out: Black Women Journalists in the Age of Trump

The general point that Donald Trump dislikes the media isn’t lost on anyone. Whether he’s caterwauling about “fake news” or tweeting that the media is the “enemy of the American people,” Trump’s contempt for the fourth estate has been well-documented. What is often lost in that shuffle is the way that black women journalists have been particularly targeted for marginalization or demotion in the age of Trump. Three black women journalists in particular have been casualties of Donald Trump’s caustic attitude towards the media. Tamron Hall, April Ryan, and Jemele Hill have all been directly or indirectly professionally impacted by his hostility towards the media.

Of the three women, Tamron Hall’s Trump-influenced career woes are probably the least obvious to the casual observer. A 10-year veteran of the Today Show, Hall parted ways with NBC in February of this year after the network hired former Fox personality Megyn Kelly to replace her in the 9 o’clock hour of the show. Kelly, though having spent more than a decade at Fox expressing very conservative views and delivering right-leaning political coverage, was shockingly remade into a feminist icon overnight in the wake of Donald Trump’s opprobrious response to her line of questioning during the first Republican presidential debate in August of 2015. Hall was offered millions of dollars to take a reduced role at NBC, but rebuffed that proposition and chose to partner with Harvey Weinstein on a new project. Unfortunately for Hall, this new partnership with Weinstein would be short-lived, due to revelations that Weinstein has serially abused women in Hollywood for decades. There are no indications that Hall had any knowledge of Weinstein’s misdeeds, but her career ironically, again suffered a setback due to another rich, powerful, well-connected, and sexually abusive white man.

Tamron Hall’s career decline during the political ascendance of Donald Trump is particularly ironic when compared to Megyn Kelly’s rise during the same time frame. NBC courted Kelly with the prime 9 a.m. slot on the Today Show, her own Sunday evening news program, and a contract worth $23 million a year to boot. With such a generous compensation package, one would assume that the woman who replaced Tamron Hall would be a ratings juggernaut. One would be wrong in that assumption. Kelly’s tenure at NBC so far has been beset with miscues and dismal ratings. There was her controversial and widely panned interview of right-wing conspiracy theorist and Sandy Hook denier Alex Jones. Then there is her difficulty in booking celebrity guests for her show.  Finally, there are her generally poor ratings. Kelly’s ratings during the 9 a.m. hour of the Today Show are 24% lower than Tamron Hall’s ratings last year in the same hour of the show. Of course, this ratings slide will come as no surprise to any professional black woman who has ever lost her job to a white woman who was less talented, but “more relatable.” While Megyn Kelly reaps millions of dollars a year for underperforming expectations, propped up by NBC’s desire to cash in on her role in the 2016 presidential election, Tamron Hall finds herself bright, talented, and capable, yet underemployed.

photo credit: EURweb.com
Tamron Hall

April Ryan had been a journalist in the White House press corps for twenty years before she became a topic of the news herself in  February.  When she asked Trump if he planned on conferring with the Congressional Black Caucus, he asked her if they were friends of hers and then asked her to set the meeting up–as if just because she is black, she should be the presidential liaison to the CBC. During a now infamous exchange with erstwhile White House press secretary Sean Spicer, Ryan pressed him on the pervasive perception that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government in the 2016 election. Spicer’s response was sexist, racist, and condescending. Telling a grown ass black woman to stop shaking her head while you are clearly bullshitting her and the American people was a new (but not the last) low for the Trump administration. Ryan described that experience as becoming “roadkill.” She also found herself in the position that journalists always try to avoid–becoming part of the news story themselves. Lost in that exchange was Ryan’s serious and substantive inquiry about the Trump campaign and Russian collusion. As time has now revealed, those questions were well-founded, because there are concurrent Senate, Congressional, and a special counsel investigations into just that.

Ryan, like Megyn Kelly, was able to parlay her run-in with a member of the Trump inner circle into another gig. Though she kept her day job as the White House press corps journalist for National Urban Radio, she also became a CNN political contributor in April.  Unlike Megyn Kelly, however, Ryan did not displace anyone more talented to land her new job, nor did her new network back up a Brinks truck to compensate her for her efforts. Lastly, Ryan is not underperforming her compensation package with CNN. The irony and the justice in her run-in with Sean Spicer is that for all his proclamations that legitimate media outlets are fake news, after his firing, Spicer has been unable to land a job with any of the media outlets he spent the better part of six months trying to delegitimize.

photo credit: thegrio.com

When ESPN’s Jemele Hill used Twitter in September to opine that Donald Trump was a white supremacist who surrounded himself with other white supremacists, the Trump administration became apoplectic. From the lectern of the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders implied that the veteran sports journalist should be fired for it. Let’s sit with that for a second. The White House press secretary–a government official–singled a journalist, suggesting she be fired for criticizing the president of the United States. Though such an action is par for the course in repressive governments like Russia, Uzbekistan, and Cuba, the United States and by extension, the office of the president, hold themselves out as the arbiters of justice and moral rectitude–except when a black woman journalist exercises her 1st Amendment rights, apparently. Though Trump and his administration have been incredibly hostile to media in general, up to that point they had never singled out a reporter to be fired for criticizing the president. There is a first time for every new low in Trump’s America, and the administration reached it there.

Hill’s initial Twitter comments followed Donald Trump’s abysmal reaction to the deadly violence that erupted at a Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August.  ESPN responded by warning her about her comments on Twitter. As the NFL season began in September, and numerous players emulated Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling protest, Donald Trump inserted himself into the fray, insisting that a player who would dare kneel in protest is a “son of a bitch” who should be dragged off the field. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones joined many of his fellow NFL owners in kneeling with his team in a self-serving act of “solidarity” designed to protect his product. Only weeks later, Jones was singing a different tune, insisting that players who knelt would be benched. “The policy and my actions are going to be if you don’t honor and stand for the flag in a way that a lot of our fans feel that you should, if that’s not the case, then you won’t play,” he told a Dallas sports radio station. Hill responded by tweeting that if fans were upset by Jones’ stance, they could boycott Dallas Cowboys’ advertisers:

 

ESPN suspended Hill for two weeks after her October 8th tweets in a move that upset many African-Americans and 1st Amendment enthusiasts. Even though Hill was definitely not the first journalist to criticize this president, she was the first one to be sanctioned by her employer for her journalistic conduct stemming from a complaint from the White House. Hill will be back on the air at ESPN this Monday, and today issued a statement indicating that she had deserved her suspension. Whether this sentiment is reflects her actual attitude towards suspension or represents a chilling effect of a black woman journalist criticizing the government in the age of Trump, we may never know.

photo credit: citizenjour.com
Jemele Hill

The profession of journalism itself is under fire from the Trump administration, and with precious few black women in it, we can ill-afford to have their voices silenced as the fourth estate is attacked on all sides. Tamron Hall’s journalistic perspective was jettisoned for Megyn Kelly, who is currently struggling to attract new viewers and maintain old ones. April Ryan was demeaned and condescended to by a man who served as Trump’s chief propagandist, and the seriousness of the questions she was asking was obfuscated in the process. Jemele Hill called out Donald Trump’s platform of white supremacy and was ultimately sanctioned by her employer for doing so. Despite these threats to their livelihood, I suspect that journalists in general, and black women journalists in particular, will continue to be on the front lines to speak truth to power and hold the powers that be accountable for their actions.

 

 

 

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Sunken Place Saturday–Diamond and Silk

diamondandsilk.com

This Sunken Place Saturday, I find myself again perplexed by the plastic-haired, shuck-and-jive duo of Diamond and Silk. These biological sisters from North Carolina comport themselves more like Plantation Cubic Zirconia and Polyester, but more on that later. By now, everyone has heard rapper Eminem’s “freestyle” in response to the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto abomination that is the Trump presidency. For better or worse, Em articulated many people’s frustration with the divisiveness, racism, sexism, and rank stupidity exemplified by the Orange Overlord. But, like many idiots before him, he has followers that are aggressively and blindly devoted to him. Among these devotees are Diamond and Silk, two black women who share Donald Trump’s affinity for absurd hairpieces.

One might wonder what Diamond and Silk have to do with Eminem. Well, these two ladies have made their own hippity-hop video–a self-styled “clapback” to the diss track Eminem levied against their lord and savior Donald Trump. Rapped in the key of slave major, and heavy on buck and shuffle dance moves, their low-budget response to Eminem’s performance was um, interesting. See for yourself:

 

Yes, friends. This is real life right now. Someone’s crooked-wigged aunties have decided that they needed to rap and coonwalk in this “rap video” to reassert their devotion to Donald Trump. I’m not sure how much they are being paid for this modern-day minstrel show they continue to perform, but I suspect that they get paid in Crown Royal and wig glue.

The sisters claim that they support Donald Trump because they are “deeply concerned about political corruption and the unethical tactics of special interest groups and lobbyists.” Yes, friends. Again, I remind you that this is real life right now.

Of course these women, though revolting, are not uncommon. Black history is replete with individuals who aligned themselves with oppressors and their interests. There were slaves who alerted slave masters about escape attempts. There were black people who infiltrated the inner circles of MLK and Malcolm X to curry favor with the government that conspired to kill both men. There were black women who intentionally wanted to become impregnated by white men, so they could breed out their black features.

So the question remains. What’s in it for Diamond and Silk and their Sunken Place shenanigans? Do they get a seat at the policymaking table? Do they get awarded cushy government appointments? Do they get White House visits to get audience with the president? The answer to all of these questions is of course, no. I think all they get for their efforts is being the black friend that racists always refer to when trying to prove that they aren’t racist.

So  in the end, for co-signing white supremacy by co-signing Trump (and not to mention for wearing wigs that look like Mrs. Potato Head attachments), Cubic Zirconia and Polyester Diamond and Silk find themselves in the Sunken Place this week. 

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Why can’t we be friends?

Why can’t we be friends?

Was the level of intimacy so deep that you fell into the pit of me and fear climbing out would take too long to escape once more?

Can you still feel all of the painful sin worthy lies that you painted down my spine when we twined our bodies into one more than a million and one times?

Could it be the inescapable scent of my pussy on your top lip from moments of hip writhing Harvard worthy brain?

You are very educated in that sense aren’t you?

Why can’t we be friends?

Does it have anything to do with your homies lusting after me like you lust after those random chics whose ponytail holders and bras I found stuffed down my throat late nights so tight that I should have spoken up but I was dickmatized and couldn’t speak?

BTW….you need better hiding spots because where I put my shit but deep in the back is DUMB.

Why can’t we be friends?

Is it because after 4 Crown on the rocks you tell me you love me during deep pulsating strokes and passionate kisses but roll over in the morning and look at me like a stranger and dap me out in the afternoon ya boy?

Why can’t we be friends?

We can’t be friends because…..when he says my name…he… lets every letter fall like raindrops.

He kisses my lips like he’ll never see me again….he holds me tight like my favorite sweater on a cold winter’s day and he can make my body shake with just his breath in my ear and most of all….he means it and is sincere.

We can’t be friends because you’re no longer wanted here.

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Sunken Place Saturday–Tina Campbell

This Sunken Place Saturday, it’s hard to think of a more deserving “honoree” than Tina Campbell, member of gospel music duo Mary Mary. Tina Campbell is many things–wife, mother, alto–and a mythical black woman Trump voter. Yes, it’s true.  While black women tried to save the country from the Orange Doom by voting overwhelming for someone other than Donald Trump, Tina Campbell helped usher in the Long Night by voting Joffrey Baratheon in as president.

 

 

The woman who ironically came to fame with a song called “Shackles,” took to the airwaves this week to say that she voted for Donald Trump because he “appealed to my Christian values more than the other candidate.” Ah, yes. Because the thrice-married, pussy-grabbing, thieving adulterer who settled multiple racial discrimination law suits and was the most prolific crusader of the birther lie spoke to her Christian values.

The problem with Campbell and the Great Value brand of Christians in general, but black Christians in particular, is that they see Christianity as only a set of beliefs to be articulated (and to seem righteous for articulating), rather than a set of practices that line up with those beliefs. So for her, it’s enough for Trump to simply say that he believes in the sanctity of marriage, for example, but not such a big deal that he falls woefully short of honoring that sanctity in his own several marriages.

I’m no theologian, but the Bible makes kind of a big deal about insisting that followers of Christ should look out for the vulnerable, the marginalized, the poor, women and children. Let’s look around. Who is poorer, more vulnerable, and marginalized than black people? Let’s take it a step further. Who is poorer, more vulnerable, and marginalized than black women and children?

You know, those same black women he was referring to when he called kneeling NFL players sons of bitches? What about black women journalists like April Ryan or Jemele Hill that he and his administration singled out for racist assumptions about who they know, condescension, or calls to be fired?

What about black and Latino children like the Central Park Five, who were falsely accused and convicted of rape, but whom Trump continued to malign as recently as last year, even after DNA evidence exonerated them? A rich white man can falsely accuse and lambaste poor black and brown children for political ends, but he supposedly speaks to her “Christian values?”

What about Deandre Harris, who was beaten within an inch of his life by Nazis and white supremacists this summer in Charlottesville? Yep, the same Nazis and white supremacists that Trump called “very fine people?” Which of your “Christian values” does that appeal to?

Oh, Tina. I know you’re a singer, but justifying your vote for Trump under the guise of Christianity is simply tone-deaf. The man who spoke to your “Christian values” can’t even say the phrase “Second Corinthians:”

Donald Trump has consistently placed himself on the wrong side of issues that are of great interest to black people. Whether it’s police brutality, poverty, affordable housing, white supremacy, the legitimacy of the Obama presidency, etc, Foolius Caesar has always chosen the position that most disadvantages/enrages black people. And you’re up here on TV pretending that you shouldn’t get all the side eyes for supporting this trash? Girl, please.

For being willfully ignorant of how Donald Trump has treated black people in the most un-Christlike ways possible, Tina Campbell has earned her spot in the Sunken Place.

THE ONLY TINAS WE RECOGNIZE ARE TURNER AND KNOWLES | made w/ Imgflip meme maker

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Why it Matters that the Vegas Terrorist is White

This morning, I, like millions of other Americans woke up to the news of the horrible slaughter in Las Vegas. A sniper-style terrorist attack that targeted unsuspecting concert goers has left at least 59 people dead and more than 500 injured. As horrifying as this grim story is, it has become a sadly routine occurrence in American life. As the body count and the human suffering rose, a few details about the shooter began to emerge. Phrases like “mentally ill” and “lone wolf” were used to describe the shooter before his photo or identity were released. Phrases like this are really cultural code words to denote that a terrorist or mass shooter is white. Calling someone who slaughters dozens of people “mentally ill” separates the person from the criminality of the offense. Calling him a “lone wolf” ignores the pattern of mass shootings the country has suffered and the similar themes of targeting people at soft targets. Of course, when Stephen Paddock’s name and photo came out, my suspicions about his race and gender were confirmed.

When I said as much this morning in a Facebook conversation, I was almost immediately chided by a friend with whom I had gone to college:

“Who cares what the nationality of the shooter . 50+ people died. We could have been one of those fifty. And the last thing we would think of before dying would likely not be if the person was white or not,” he said.

Of course from the perspective of an innocent person about to meet a violent death, my friend was right. But from a public policy perspective, my friend couldn’t be more wrong. And therein lies the problem.

Mass shootings in America are shockingly common, and each one seemingly more deadly than the last. The Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as an event in which “four or more [are] shot and/or killed in a single event, at the same general time and location not including the shooter.” By this very grisly standard, America averages about one mass shooting every day.

Who are these mass shooters? The most notorious ones have names that live in infamy. Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, Dylan Roof, Adam Lanza, James Holmes, Jared Loughner, etc. have been the authors of the most vicious attacks upon unsuspecting people in schools, movie theaters, grocery stores, and church. All were white men. All targeted people where they least expected to be victimized. All have been described in the media as lone wolves and mentally ill. Public policy makers fidget uncomfortably when asked to describe these men as terrorists and this is a problem, because we know that the same actions would have been immediately deemed as terrorism if the men were Muslim (and ostensibly brown, rather than white).

This reticence to label white (mostly Christian) men  who commit acts of terror as terrorists stands in stark contrast to how policymakers deal with offenders or perceived offenders of other races and religions. America has repeatedly and aggressively pursued public policy initiatives directed at targeting groups of people who are perceived to be threats to public safety. Stop-and-frisk in New York, for example, which targeted black and Latino men, was infamously ineffective at stopping crimes before they happened.  In fact, nearly 90% of the people subjected to stop-and-frisk were determined to have committed no crime at all. But that didn’t stop Rudy Giuliani and other supporters from continuing to defend the practice even after its inefficacy was proven.

Donald Trump began his official presidential campaign by disparaging Mexicans: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

His campaign promise to build a “big beautiful wall” along America’s southern border is now a serious public policy proposal to deal with the perceived hyper-criminality of Mexicans.

His so-called “Muslim ban” resulted in the United States Supreme Court rendering constitutional a travel ban that would halt travel from seven predominately Muslim countries because of fears of terrorism.

However, according to the FBI, they are investigating over 1000 cases of white supremacist or other types of domestic terrorist cases–roughly the same number of ISIS-related terror cases they are investigating. We are are very familiar with the public policy initiatives put forth to combat terrorists who are perceived to be Muslim–no fly lists, the Patriot Act, travel bans, limits on refugees, ect. However, there are no corresponding public policy measures put in place to combat murderous white men, who are disproportionately represented in the number of mass shooters and domestic terrorists.

Part of the reticence to label white men who commit terrorist acts as terrorists rests with what the people who dictate terrorism look like. When the vast majority of our country’s public policymakers are white men, it is much harder for that group to other a demographic that looks like them, or select them for pre-emptive criminal scrutiny. That is why even speaking in Arabic or Spanish in public can get a person harassed or detained under the suspicion that they have criminal intent or no right to be in the country, but white men openly carrying weapons in public barely register a raised eyebrow. Our country has done a very good job of convincing people that the folks you need to fear speak Spanish or Arabic, or have skin darker than a paper bag.

The problem with creating public policy in a way that creates the impression that only certain groups of people can be boogeymen is that malefactors who don’t fit the narrowly constructed paradigm of who is a public menace end up slipping under the radar.That’s how thousands of khaki-clad white supremacists could descend on Charlottesville, Virginia while blending seamlessly back into society after the terrorist attack was over.  Most black men know that open carry gun laws don’t apply to them in any meaningful way, whereas in Charlottesville, the white supremacists openly carried intimidating weapons with impunity. When violence erupted there and a young woman was murdered in a vehicle attack, there was no substantive discussion on how to create public policy designed to intercept criminally minded disaffected white men. In fact, Donald Trump even called the white supremacists “very fine people.”

Armed white supremacists in Charlotesville, VA.

When white men with guns transgress public safety,  groups like the NRA and politicians who count on them for donations insist that the only solution to a with a bad guy with a gun, is “a good guy with a gun.” This, however, is a sales pitch. It’s not a sound public policy prescription. In the time period between the Sandy Hook Massacre and the 2016 presidential election, gun sales skyrocketed–boosted in part by the erroneous belief that President Obama was going to take everyone’s guns away. However, despite the surge of “good guys with guns,” statistics don’t show that a better armed public correlated to a reduction of mass shootings and domestic terrorism incidents. By even the most generous definition of what constitutes a mass shooting, the frequency of these incidents hasn’t gone down since the Sandy Hook Massacre.

This observation isn’t simply whataboutism. I’m not simply suggesting that because other groups of people are profiled as criminals, that white men should be too as a way of bringing cosmic balance to the situation.  Rather, it is a serious look at who we are afraid of in this country and why. It’s been reported that Paddock had 18 legally obtained weapons in his hotel room, and dozens more in his home. We need to ask ourselves why a man amassing that kind of weapons stockpile didn’t raise any alarms? By comparison, various gun shops in recent years have indicated that they won’t sell guns to Muslim patrons, citing terrorism concerns. If Muslim people, by virtue of their religion alone, are enough to give some gun dealers pause about selling to them, then why aren’t the same proportion of gun dealers similarly nervous about selling weapons to white men, given high-profile mass shootings and acts of terrorism with white perpetrators?

What are the underlying reasons that white males represent 31% of the population, but 54% of mass shooters? Why don’t we have any policy proposals to address such a shocking disproportion when we have policy initiatives to address disproportion in other groups? What this Las Vegas massacre and other similar mass shootings demonstrate, is that while public policy discussions focus on building walls, travel bans, and what to do about “thugs,” a subset of people are slowly, but abundantly arming themselves and wreaking havoc on communities. If we continue to treat each of these ruptures in public safety as individual and unrelated acts, rather than as symptoms of a greater cultural crisis, then we will continue to miss the boogeymen right in front of us.