On October 2nd, 2017, millions woke to learn that a gunman named Stephen Paddock had opened fire on the crowd at the Route 91 Music Festival the previous night, killing more than 50 concertgoers and injuring over 500 more.
The massacre has been declared as the largest mass shooting in United States history.
Paddock was found dead by police in his hotel room, where he had stockpiled 10 more rifles. Reports indicate that he had killed himself before the police entered the room.
The media to no one’s surprise has dubbed him a “lone wolf,” a “crazed lunatic,” and a “psychopath.” Reporters also find it necessary to inform the public that Paddock was a 64-year-old man who lived in a retirement community and had no prior criminal record. But news cycles aren’t calling him exactly what he is: a terrorist. Why not?
Because he’s yet another white, American mass shooter.
American citizens have been taught by misinformed media outlets and damning political rhetoric to think of “terrorism” as an act that that only brown or black people from the Middle East, Africa, or Asia can commit. When foreigners or people of color commit crimes that result in mass casualty, the media jumps quickly to brand them as terrorists and works diligently to try and link them to terrorist groups. But this simply isn’t the case with our white, male shooters who are responsible for approximately 64% of America’s deadliest mass shootings.
You saw it when Dylann Roof killed nine African-Americans in a church shooting and was solely categorized mentally ill.
Or when Craig Hicks killed 3 Muslim college grads in Chapel Hill but was chalked up as just another “isolated incident” with no mention of terrorism.
But the Manchester bomber, Salman Abedi, who was responsible for the attack at Ariana Grande’s UK concert in May 2017, was immediately picked apart by the press and investigated for potential ties to ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and various other foreign terror groups.
Do you see a pattern that the media seems to willfully ignore here?
White men are not truly held accountable in the ways people of color are, but the existence of white privilege has always been a testament to that. What is perpetually astonishing, the extent that white privilege protects domestic terrorists, like Paddock, who spread fear and carnage from being labeled as such.
Instead, we’re pandered to by being told that the criminal couldn’t have possibly committed such an atrocious act because the individual went to church or had good attendance in high or saved a cat once. This was just the case with Paddock, whose family members are reportedly stunned and “can’t believe” he would have ever orchestrated this type of horror.
So to summarize, media utilizes white privilege to paint white terrorists as mentally ill or as ideal citizens up until the day they “snap.”
Simultaneously, white privilege demonizes people of color and encourages the media, law enforcement agencies, and the general population to explore every thread of the suspect’s history to try and find some link to foreign terrorism without looking at the more pressing issue: lack of gun regulation and reform.
Media reports didn’t even show pictures of Stephen Paddock until later in the day; choosing first to air photos of his partner, a woman of color named Marilou Danley. It was her face that millions saw on social media first, though she has since been dismissed as a person of interest.
This overt racial profiling by the media has been a trend since 9/11 and has perpetuated generalized and discriminatory stereotypes and sentiments against people from various religious groups, ethnicity, and races all while keeping the white man safe from bigotry.
But enough is enough.
So, if a white person tells you to avoid politicizing this tragedy then ask them how many more people have to die for those in political power to issue change? If they tell you to refrain from bringing up race, ask them if they’ve ever had to defend their whiteness or their Christian faith to their neighbors, colleagues, strangers, and country after a terrorist attack takes place. Ask them if they have to change the way they dress or only speak a certain language in public to avoid harassment because of media-based stereotypes.
Ask them if they’ve ever received death threats or racial slurs for something they didn’t do.
Stephen Paddock is not a “lone wolf.”
He is not an innocent, retired man whose mind suddenly took a turn for the worst.
He is despicable, he is American and he is a domestic terrorist who took over fifty lives.