Misogyny and entitlement were factors, but Rodger’s manifesto reveals his rage was also directed at people of color, Michael Kimmel and Cliff Leek write.
The horrific mass murder in Santa Barbara has pundits and armchair diagnosticians scrambling for an explanation.
This time, we’ve seen misogyny and men’s sense of entitlement added to the usual suspects of guns and mental illness. We’d suggest another variable be added to the lethal equation: race.
We are not saying that the fact that Elliot Rodger identified himself as white is the single cause of his gruesome rampage. Not at all.
But if we want to understand how this happened, and how to prevent it in the future, we are going to have to confront race. Let’s look at the facts. In the last 20 years, all but one of the school shootings were committed by a white man.
Rodger’s enemies were not only the beautiful white girls who he felt constantly turned him down for dates and rejected him sexually. His rage was also toward all the men of color he felt those white girls chose over him.
In his manifesto he writes: “How could an inferior, ugly black boy be able to get a white girl and not me? I am beautiful, and I am half white myself. I am descended from British aristocracy. He is descended from slaves. I deserve it more.”
Here’s another way Rodger’s race was involved. His parents were so worried that they called the police. The police went to his house and questioned him. They thought that he was basically fine, posed no threat, and they left him alone.
Now imagine if he’d been black and expressed the threatening rage that is present in his many YouTube videos. The police would have knocked and he’d have been in handcuffs instantly.
But Elliot Rodger, the son of a British father and Asian mother, identified himself as white. He “looked normal.”
The commonality among these shooters is, overwhelmingly, race and gender. This is a voice of white male aggrieved entitlement. Our willingness to assign blame to individuals, at the expense of any attention to the underlying trends in these repeated cases of white male violence, allows this violence to continue.
Michael Kimmel and Cliff Leek are in the sociology department at Stony Brook University.