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The Color of Motives

I have been reading a few interesting articles lately in which the authors have expressed frustration that the media has been consumed with trying to understand the motives of James Holmes. Their frustration is based on the fact that the media rarely cares about the motives of inner city gun violence. The articles that I read seem to suggest that the media and perhaps the majority of white Americans see black violence as unsurprising, but a white guy killing a bunch of people is so bizarre that it needs to be understood on a deeper level.

I think these articles are largely correct and that is an unfortunate face of racism in modern America. Some of the articles that I read claim that we shouldn’t be interested in the motives of Holmes or anyone else and that we should just focus on the actions. One article wondered why Holmes wasn’t being described as a terrorist. If he were a Muslim, he would of course be described as a terrorist even if his religion had absolutely zero to do with his motivation.

I do think motives are important. I think they are important in all cases. If we can understand why a killer does what he does, we can hopefully prevent some potential killers from becoming killers in the first place. This is part of the reason why schools are now concerned with bullying. It really isn’t that the school is concerned for those being bullied, but rather that those being bullied might get to their last straw and shoot up the place.

In the inner city, the motives generally center on money. People are poor and desperate. As a result, they sell drugs and join gangs. Some people in poor situations turn to drugs and alcohol to feel comfort from their troubles and then of course they are led down a path of violence. This obviously isn’t true for every poor person in the country, but stress over wealth is a big motivator toward violence. This is why we need to address wealth inequality.

With that said, I do think the articles made a great point that the media seems more concerned with white people than they are with black people. Had Holmes been black, the narrative would be completely different. No one would be trying to understand why he did what he did and instead of the Right trying to attack the Left for wanting some kind of gun control, they would be trying to link this incident to Obama since both the killer and the President would have been black.

Just as the media gets into a frenzy when there is a white woman missing or killed, but rarely if ever spends any time of missing black women, this is just another case of unintentional racism. That is to say that I don’t think the media is purposefully saying, “Let’s only talk about white people.” No, just as I had not considered this before reading those articles, I don’t think the media considered it either… and we should have.

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