Last week’s act of domestic terror against the AAPI community is just the most recent in a too-long list of heinous mass shootings perpetrated by white men fueled by sexism and racism.
The man who shot up those massage parlors is the same man who shoots up a school or church or storms the Capitol. Deep down, they believe they are entitled “to take it back – to show those people – to make it right.” Nearly 100% of the time, they have a history of violence against women.
When they are feeling small, or rejected, or in pain, they choose to dominate others. Why? Because we live in a society that tells little boys that to be a man, they have to dominate, they have to win, they have to be in control. And for white boys, they not only get messages that they are the superior gender, but also that they are the superior race.
As I was searching for the words for this post, I saw a young boy – probably six or seven years old – running in front of me wearing a shirt that said, “Ready for Battle.”
And then I started thinking about how we brand our boys with these messages from the time they are toddlers. I googled popular sports t-shirts for boys and here’s a sampling of what came up.
We are literally clothing them in messages of superiority and domination. No wonder our boys feel pressure to perform their manhood. I can assure you that little boy I saw is not ready for battle – even if only on a sports field.
White men who perpetrate mass shootings were once boys who got rejected. Who were lonely. Who didn’t fit in. Who didn’t measure up to society’s ideal version of manhood. And because they’ve grown up being told they are superior, they feel wronged.
They likely sought belonging in video games and chat rooms where sexism, racism, and xenophobia are casually tossed about and considered “funny.” They play games where you can have sex with women and then kill her for extra points. It can be a gateway to hard-core misogyny and white supremacy culture. That’s where those groups lurk, hoping to prey on the weaknesses of a lonely and dejected young boy and recruit them into their circles.
Hear me clearly: I’m not defending any mass shooter. But I’m also the mother of a 12-year-old white boy. I do not want any of these racist, sexist monsters grabbing hold of his heart or mind. Rejection and loss are part of life – everyone’s life. My son will be rejected by a love interest. He will not always make the team. He will not always make the grade. He will not always get the job.
What can I do as a mom of a white boy?
- I can allow him to feel disappointed and sad when things don’t go his way.
- I can help him see areas where he could have worked harder.
- I can show him he’s not entitled to anyone or anything.
- I can teach him to listen to the people who are most affected by sexism and racism.
- I can help broaden his circle of influence and elevate diverse voices and experiences.
- I can value the lives of everyone around me, especially those who are most often made invisible.
And while I have to do my part (or I am passively complicit in the next horrendous act), I also recognize it’s so much bigger than any one mom. We have to work together to dismantle white male supremacy culture because at the end of the day, it’s setting our white boys up for failure. And their failure leads to our collective suffering and the absolute devastation of BIPOC communities everywhere.