I held off commenting on this, mostly because I’ve been spending the first couple days after this latest of preventable tragedies waiting to find out a few things about what exactly happened. I’m not entirely sure what this was, as far as the shooter was concerned, about…though the idea that this person thought that people were sending him messages through microwave signals reminds me a lot of the Congressman Allard Lowenstein shooting, which was committed by someone who was convinced the CIA was controlling him by sending messages through his dental fillings. (The killer of Allard Lowenstein today walks free in upstate New York, by the way – something that freaks the remaining members of the Lowenstein family out, and frankly, should freak the rest of you out as well. Keep an eye on what happens to this shooter.)
There is one thing I have enough information to comment upon, however, now that this New York Times story has come out. There are a bunch of irresponsible comments floating around the Internet mocking Barack Obama’s comment about Trayvon Martin…you remember that comment, right? That if the President “had a son, he’d probably look a lot like Trayvon”?
Those on the extreme Right decided it was time to suggest that if Obama had a son, he’d probably look a lot like the Washington Navy Yard shooter – presumably because the fact that both the President and this shooter are black link them in all relevant aspects of their lives.
There is no question that the reason Obama made the comment about Martin is that this young man’s victimisation affected black Americans (and certainly many others), and Obama, being a black American, understood the circumstances of that case in a particular way, and was trying to communicate that. It _was_ a statement of solidarity with members of his own “racial group”, whatever that means in a society moving towards post-racialism, but it was also a statement of solidarity with humans in general.
The idea the extreme Right wants to plant in your head is that the President will side with any black person, no matter what they do. What the President was trying to say, it was pretty obvious, was that he would side with innocent victims, particularly when their victimhood is part of a wider social negligence that disproportionately affects African-Americans.
So, “if Obama had a son”, he’d probably look like the Washington Navy Yard shooter?
What about “if Obama had a brother and sister”, they’d probably look like Arthur Daniels and Sylvia Frasier?
Two people shot and killed by the Navy Yard shooter were African-American. If showing solidarity with people of one’s own racial background is unforgivable in President Obama, then at least, you have to admit, the shooter didn’t exactly suffer from Obama’s presumed deficiency.
Do not let people play the race card here. By that I don’t mean simply say nothing when they do. I mean challenge them. Get in their faces. Allowing people to turn something that is already a massacre into a half-assed justification for race hatred is too consequential – if you don’t challenge them now, you’ll never be in a position to ever again…they’ll simply take over everything.