Kalamazoo Nice Guy
As a Michigander and as a minority I found it extremely troubling that your recent collaboration with Alan Blinder, Monica Davey and Mitch Smith opted to perpetuate the nice white guy descriptor that we see far too often in mass shooting coverage. I say that considering the frequency by which these crimes are committed by males that happen to be white, and how often exposés seem to find the one neighbor that is genuinely shocked by the mass murderers actions.
What made the inclusion of this descriptor even more egregious was that it was immediately followed by a pretty clear example of Mr. Dalton’s un-nice guy behavior. Butting up a nice guy persona with the image of him randomly firing off his gun into the air made me sick to my stomach. Sure, we all want to know more about Mr. Dalton and what if-any motives he had. But what benefit did that inclusion bring to the holistic integrity or the narrative of the story? Would it have been too hard to reach out to the Uber patrons that spoke about the fear that he brought them without the use of his nice guy gun? They may not have had such kind words for Mr. Dalton.
Frankly, I assume that the neighbor also portrayed him as a quiet loner but that somehow missed the final edit. But I digress.
Listen, it’s not as if the three of you haven’t covered issues like this before. Nor could anyone argue that the three of you are aloof to the climate, culture and diversity found within midwestern metropolitan areas. So, what gives?
The tonality here hardly differs from other pieces written about similar atrocities over the past few years. There seems to be this tendency to try and understand the murderer if and only if their skin tone is as white as the paper the story is printed on.
For none-white shooters the adjectives, labels and outrage tends to take a dramatic shift towards religious extremism or needless gang violence. Which in-and-of-itself is problematic because the last time that I checked white people were also capable of committing terrible acts in the name of religion or crime.
So, why is it that we trip over ourselves when trying to get inside of the mind of a white killer? Why is it that we solely bring up mental illness as both correlational and causation for Caucasian shooters?
Is it conscious racism or is it passive conditioning that dictates how we cover these types of events? A call-and-response that we’ve all grown too familiar with in recent decades.
I say this as a college educated midwestern minority: Please be mindful of whose narrative you ascribe to the next time you cover an event of this nature.
If one shooter deserves backstory-all shooters deserve backstory. If one shooter warrants a conversation about mental health-all shooters deserve a conversation about mental health.
Lastly, just consider the following: Nothing better underscores the schism in our society better than knowing that the story is already written before the blood of the victims has already dried.
Thank you for your time.