If the shooter in Vegas had been Muslim, he would’ve been called a terrorist. We’d blame immigration. If he had been black, he would’ve been called a criminal. We’d blame an entire race. If he were Latino, he would’ve been called a gang member. We’d blame the undocumented.
However, Stephen Paddock has been called “troubled, quiet and angry.”
Apparently, white privilege extends to mass murderers as well. When shootings are committed by people from a minority group their respective groups are collectively blamed and the conversation turns to policy that aims to deter them. Whether it’s radical Islam, refugees, or Latin American immigration, when a shooter belongs to a minority group, there’s always someone to blame.
This time, hotel safety was blamed. Not gun control. Not mass murders. Not angry white men. Hotel safety.
In fact, Paddock’s brother, Eric Paddock, says there’s no explanation for his actions because he was a good man. “I hope they find, when they do the autopsy, that there’s a tumor in his head or something. Because if they don’t, we’re all in trouble.”
If I’m following his logic correctly, if his brother didn’t have a brain tumor, we’re in trouble because it means anyone could do this. Not just Islamic terrorists, or immigrants, or refugees. Anyone. Anyone as in any race, any religion, any gender. Terror doesn’t see boundaries. But America does. Because a mass murderer is white, the public has a hard time grasping their actions. They can’t explain it. There’s no one to blame.
Whereas if any other religion or ethnicity were involved, we’d already have jumped to conclusions. News organization don’t try to humanize Islamic terrorists by telling us stories about how good of a man they were. But here we are, talking about Paddock’s gambling habits, family life, and real estate. As if it changed the fact that he just orchestrated the biggest mass murder in the history of the United States.
If the media were to treat Paddock as they treat other mass murderers, they should be scrutinizing his religion, his descent and his skin color. Instead, they’re talking about his hard childhood, how he was a good uncle and how little he fits into the “criminal profile.”
Stephen Paddock Doesn't Fit Mass Shooter Profile https://t.co/DKMBe0ikaA
— TMZ (@TMZ) October 2, 2017
We should be enraged that no one is calling him a terrorist. Some have argued that he doesn’t fit the official definition of the term “terrorist,” and therefore should not be described as such. In fact, the FBI claims there is no universal definition for the term, but they define it as an act of terror used “to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof.” As far as we know, Paddock didn’t have any political agenda behind his killing spree, nor did he do it to coerce the government into anything. Or maybe he did, but it’s too early to know.
Either way, according to Nevada law, an act of terrorism is an act that “involves the use or attempted use of sabotage, coercion or violence which is intended to: (a) Cause great bodily harm or death to the general population…”
So in Nevada, he’s a terrorist. He used extreme violence to cause abominable harm. He’s a terrorist everywhere.
The conversation shouldn’t be about whether this man fits into the correct definition. This is not the time to worry about specificities of the English language. Once again, we’re just straying away from his actions because his skin color protects him from being blamed. Paddock murdered at least 59 people – as of October 3 – and hurt more than 500 others. He caused terror equally as atrocious as that of a someone who acts with a political motive. Our scholarly definitions shouldn’t keep us from treating him like what he really is.
Paddock was a terrorist. He and others who will follow him represent the same danger to society as mass murderers motivated by religious and political causes. The fact that he’s white doesn’t bring him closer to us. It doesn’t humanize him. And under no circumstances does it excuse the terror he unleashed on 22,000 concertgoers in Las Vegas.