With the exception of sex and religion, nothing makes people more irrational than race. Given the bloody history of racial disputes in American life, one would think that responsible news organizations would take particular care in addressing inflammatory topics. Then there’s The Washington Post, which actually ran an Easter Sunday opinion column headlined, “White men have much to discuss about mass shootings.”
Written by Charlotte and Harriet Childress, identical twins who describe themselves as “researchers and consultants on social and political issues — with a Ph.D. and four master’s degrees between them — the essay argued that something uniquely wicked about “white male culture” is responsible for tragedies like last year’s massacre of 26 schoolchildren and teachers in Newtown, CT.
“Nearly all of the mass shootings in this country in recent years,” the authors assure us, “not just Newtown, Aurora, Fort Hood, Tucson and Columbine—have been committed by white men and boys.”
Yes, the Childress sisters actually wrote that, and the editors of the most influential newspaper in our nation’s capital waved it into print.
Neatly airbrushed out of the picture, most Washingtonians would object, were two of the most notorious mass murderers in recent U.S. history: “Beltway snipers” John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo. In 2002 they murdered 10 people in The Washington Post’s primary circulation area for explicitly racial (and entirely mad) reasons having to do with black nationalism.
Also 2007 rampage shooter Seung-Hui Cho, a Korean immigrant who killed 32 classmates and professors at Virginia Tech. Raised in Fairfax County, VA, across the Potomac River from Washington, Cho had been adjudicated “an imminent danger to himself as a result of mental illness” in a Virginia court, but not hospitalized.
This last is important because another of the Childress sisters’ claims is that “when white men try to divert attention” from their collective guilt “by talking about mental health issues, many people buy into the idea that the United States has a national mental health problem.”
Odd, because yet another mass shooting with a Washington angle involves Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood assassin—an Arlington, VA native. Whether or not Hasan, a Palestinian-American Muslim many would call a terrorist, should properly be called “white” as the Childress sisters use the word, was debated by many of the thousands of online commentators who gravitated to the Post website to bicker and exchange anonymous racial insults—an entirely predictable outcome of publishing such witless nonsense.
It’s also true that several of Maj. Hasan’s colleagues at the Walter Reed Medical Center—another Washington institution—described him as “paranoid” and “schizoid,” terms that have been applied in medical settings to the Tucson and Aurora shooters as well.
But the Childress sisters are having none of that. “What facets of white male culture,” they demand to know, “create so many mass shootings?”
If I sound personally offended, that’s an error of tone.