As I watched CNN yesterday and learned about the shooting in Connecticut, I was absolutely horrified. The more I watched, the more anxious I was for my children to return home so that I could hug them and kiss them – a luxury that 20 sets of parents and extended families no longer have. As we held our sons and told them how much we loved them, several things struck my mind. Watching the news, there has been a lot of discussion of the role that mental health had to play, the absence of a discussion on race and of course gun control.
Whenever these shootings happen, the media goes on yet another round of ableism by stigmatizing those who are mentally ill. Few will acknowledge that those who are neurologically atypical are more prone to harm themselves than others, and instead we get warnings about how we need to deal with the mentally ill in society. Yes, people need access to good mental health treatment but not because they might go out and kill someone but because healthcare, regardless of the reason, should be a human right. What people who are disabled do not need, is yet another round of pathologizing commentary. Dr. Drew and the like have no idea of what Adam Lanza’s motivation really was, or if he was indeed mentally ill, but they have no problem repeatedly saying this. Neurologically typical people perform heinous acts ever damn day but when horrible incidents like this happen, you never ever hear that.
Gun violence has long been a problem in inner cities. Everyday,
promising young men and women die and no one has anything to say about
this because the children who are dying are Black and Brown. I am in no way suggesting that what happened was not absolutely horrific,
simply pointing out that the response is different depending on who is
dying. Another issue worth talking about is the fact that when the
assailant is White, the media immediately says that the person is
mentally ill and yes, this is ableism, but it is also about creating the
assailant as an individual, so as not to suggest the actions of the
individual of being representative of his race. When people of colour
are violent, it is deemed representative of our race and entire
communities are stigmatized through the actions of one person. If you
look at the statistics on mass murderers like Adam Lanza, or on serial
killers like Jeffry Dahmer, you will find that they are largely White
and yet Whiteness is deemed not to be the violent race; a White face is
supposed to mean safety and normalcy. How we talk about events like
this greatly shape our understanding of who is violent and why.
In terms of gun control, already the NRA has their talking points at play. I have heard that to talk about gun control in the wake of this terrible incident is politicizing the issue. If we cannot talk about gun control in the wake of so many deaths, then when exactly is it appropriate? The truth of the matter is that the guns Adam used were legally purchased by Nancy Lanza, his mother. This means that all the checks and balances which have been suggested probably wouldn’t have worked in this case, because Adam gained access to weapons through his now deceased mother. Is there any reason anyone needs to own a bushmaster .223? Pause a moment and look at this semi-automatic weapon.