This week, I must first acknowledge the senseless taking of lives in Las Vegas. My prayers of condolence reach out to those directly victimized and those suffering the loss of family and friends. However one might search, there’s no rationalization that can support the inhumanity of that act. For the sake of our children, it’s my fervent prayer that we can achieve a level of civility and understanding that will eliminate similar future acts.
Sadly, recent events have left me inured to the potential recurrence of this type of violence. The Las Vegas Massacre was labeled by media sources as the nation’s 273rd mass shooting in 2017. It was incorrectly labeled as the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. History. Some therapists believe the first step towards remedying a problem is to acknowledge the problem. Our national romance with violence is nothing new and our history confirms that violence begets violence. Lacking knowledge of one’s own history typically results in a skewed interpretation or distorted perception of events. Before we can end these acts of violence, we must understand what inspires such violence.
The Washington Post defines a mass shooting as one in which four or more people are killed or injured by gunfire. Fox News, an unlikely source for me, printed a timeline of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. History. (http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/10/02/deadliest-shootings-in-u-s-history.html) Their article was surprisingly honest and confirmed that Blacks and Indigenous People held the record for victimization. Unfortunately, their article omitted historic events of violence that are fairly well-known and have casualty rates that equal or surpass Las Vegas. The Greenwood, OK Massacre, the Wounded Knee Massacre, the East St. Louis Massacre, the Red Summer are all events omitted in the article, but which resulted in numerous deaths of Blacks and Indigenous People.
Deniers will complain that the mentioned events are not “modern history.” Complainers miss the fact that our nation has a continuum of violence that has been perpetrated upon the disadvantaged, vulnerable or undervalued. This legacy is carried-over contemporarily by white vigilantes and rogue cops. Deniers will counter with “Black-on-Black Crime.” As my friend Dick Gregory always said, “White folks kill most white folks, too!” It is a fact that killers will usually kill where they live. Also a fact is that killers, with premeditation or in anger, have devalued the life/lives of their victims.
From what we’ve learned of the Las Vegas shooter, he was wealthy, privileged, abusive, aggressive and ill-tempered. Not using the words, his brother described a personality I would consider narcissistic and self-absorbed. Wealth gave him access to venues unavailable to the average person and acquisition of possessions most couldn’t afford. Under the best of circumstances, people like him usually project belief in their superiority and act upon it. The shooter made the most arrogant and narcissistic decision that can be made – that he had arbitrary life and death authority over others. He chose to put himself in the place of God and decide who would live and who would die. Given further consideration, his goal was to control and take the lives of all he surveyed.
That thought brings me to what I consider a most important point. The example set by the leader is the example which will be followed by the group. #45 has set an ugly example for the nation. He’s demonstrated hatred and bias and established an intemperate social environment. Examples of civility and decorum usually exhibited by our chief executive are missing with this man. As stated by opponents and supporters alike, he refuses to disavow the evil among us and disregards the benefits of cooperative, if not peaceful, coexistence. #45 should know that only our concerted effort for peace and justice can overcome this evil.
Dr. E. Faye Williams, National President of the National Congress of Black Women, Inc. www.nationalcongressbw.org (202) 678-6788