No color boundaries for male violence


SO, ANOTHER white boy snaps out.

Kipland Kinkel, all of 15, has been charged in the shooting deaths of his parents and two schoolmates at Thurston High School in Springfield, Ore. He wounded 24 other students. Kinkel joins suspects in similar shootings in Jonesboro, Ark., West Paducah, Ky., and Pearl, Miss. All are young, white and male.

You have to wonder what Dinesh D'Souza, author of that racist work of screed ironically entitled "The End of Racism," makes of all this. D'Souza went to great lengths in the book to promote the "black male as menace" theory. Whites are perfectly justified in fearing black males, D'Souza contended, because crime stats show they are the ones arrested most for robbery. Cab drivers who refuse to pick up blacks are not racist, but only practicing "rational discrimination."

There's another, more appropriate name for it, of course: good old-fashioned, down-home bigotry. When I was in school I was taught, repeatedly, that a bigot was someone who judged an entire group by the actions of a small number of the group. That leaves me to wonder exactly what kind of schools D'Souza attended. He's a Dartmouth College alumnus, but other alumni at the school have called and written to ask that he not be mentioned in the same breath with their alma mater.

But D'Souza is not alone. I've heard from others, by phone and mail, who are blind to their own bigotry and convinced that the notion of "rational discrimination" is a valid one. One caller from Florida said he would have no sympathy for blacks "until they got their act together."

The act he referred to was crime, ignoring the fact that most of the victims of black criminals are black. So, in the tortured world of this Florida resident, black crime victims are responsible for the actions of the ones committing the crime against them. Using his logic, the two boys killed in Springfield, Ore., and the four little girls killed in Jonesboro, Ark., are evidence that white Americans "don't have their act together."

Let's apply this "rational discrimination" business across the board. If you're walking down the street and see a young black man and it's perfectly "rational" to see him not as an individual but as a menacing glob of melanin, it's also perfectly "rational" to see a young white man as a potential mass murderer. After all, we have those boys in Springfield, West Paducah, Jonesboro and Pearl -- not to mention Timothy McVeigh, Ted Bundy and Jeffrey "Eat 'em up" Dahmer -- as examples by which we'll judge every other young white male in the country.

Is that fair? Of course not. Nor is it fair to judge every young black male by the ones committing crimes. But that is exactly what the new breed of bigots known as "rational discriminators" would have us do. Oh, and they think they're perfectly fair, mind you. No logical or cogent argument will make them see the error of their thinking. It's like trying to get a dead dog to roll over, only not as easy.

Such blind stubbornness is typically American. Most Americans, asked if they have any racism or bigotry against this group or that one, will probably be insulted by the question. We assume that to be born American is to be born inherently fair-minded and free of bigotry. We believe that despicable drivel D'Souza wrote in his book: that if there's any bigotry left in America, it's all coming from those horrible Negroes (led by that dreaded Louis Farrakhan) who are responsible for every social ill that afflicts America.

You can bet the folks in Springfield -- or Pearl or West Paducah or Jonesboro -- aren't feeling so smug this morning. You have to get the feeling that if D'Souza were to hit one or all of these $$ towns and give one of his stirring lectures on what he termed the ZTC "insufferable young black males," residents might tar and feather him on the spot.

There's one thing for sure. The residents of those towns now know something D'Souza and the horde of "rational discriminators" would never acknowledge: violence in America is male, not a racial, phenomenon. Deep in our bones we all know that at a certain age a young man of almost any race has the potential to kirk out. What we don't know is when, who or where.

Such sobering ignorance provides the answer to how we prevent future Springfields and Jonesboros. The sad truth is, we can't.

Pub Date: 5/27/98

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