What does race have to do with the Colorado movie theater shooting?

1 Aug

I’m really wondering.

After Trayvon Martin’s shooting, we wondered. After all, Trayvon was black. And his shooter George Zimmerman is variously identified as Hispanic, multiracial and white Hispanic.

This is what we do: we wonder what race has to do with an event when people of color are involved. Case in point: when Barack Obama ran for president, pundits wondered how his racial identity would impact how people voted. They didn’t really ask how John McCain’s racial identity would impact how people voted. Or, for that matter, how racial identities have mattered in previous run-offs between two white-identified candidates (for example, when Al Gore ran against George W. Bush). And yet race did matter, and does, even when you don’t have a racial minority to point to.

So as I’ve read about the Colorado movie theater shooting and its aftermath, I’ve been wondering what race has to do with this tragedy. Not just how James Holmes may fit the white male profile of mass murder shooters, but how race formed his consciousness, fueled his anger, made him invisible and facilitated his crime.

The question I’m asking is not if race has anything to do with the shooting: I’m asking how it does. Because, as Erika Christakis writes in “The overwhelming maleness of mass homicide,” “our silence about [how identity correlates with] such violence may be costing lives” (http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/24/opinion/christakis-males-homicide/index.html).

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