05 August 2010

"I wish I coulda got more of the people"

Authorities in Manchester CT have released a 911 call placed from the site of Tuesday's amoklauf by the shooter himself after he had mortally wounded eight people. It's a chilling text to read. The shooter's loved ones have told reporters that he'd complained of racist harassment during his time at the beer distributor's, and his call confirms that sentiment. But it should also dispel any notion that he's a martyr or the real victim of the story. The appalling thing about his remarks is the disproportion of his lethal response to the perceived or alleged offense -- his employers deny his charge. The race angle will probably keep this story before the public longer than other recent outbursts, since it ties in neatly to the freshly vehement polemic between the civil-rights movement and partisan conservatives. The latter deny any racist influence on their opposition to the Obama administration and insinuate that black hatred of whites is a more serious problem today than vice versa. The Manchester amoklauf will almost certainly be cited as proof of that proposition, while the civil-rights community will take the shooter's own accusations as proof that white racism remains a divisive, destructive force in America.

Few neat morals can be drawn from the Manchester incident. With objective irony, I'm inclined to label the shootings a hate crime, since he presumably targeted whites who he felt had sabotaged his employment for racist reasons. Thus disposing of the shooter doesn't take his employers and co-workers off the hook, however. While some people will want to assume that he was simply lying, I'd wait to see if co-workers will step forward to confirm his version of events. Proof of workplace racism obvious won't justify or vindicate the shooter, but knowledge of it should still damn anyone proven to be racist. The moral here wouldn't be that you shouldn't be racist toward co-workers because you might get killed. The reason to seek the truth would simply be to expose and condemn persistent white racism. The two wrongs won't make a right, but this may be the sort of situation where everyone who counts was wrong.

The most obvious moral has nothing to do with race, except insofar as racial animosity makes it even more obvious. Do we really want guns to be so readily available in such an environment? Figure that out for yourselves....

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