Faculty Writing: Why “They” Seem More Violent Than “We” Are

As Nikolas Cruz carried out Wednesday’s massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, lawmakers were in the midst of negotiating (ultimately in vain) an immigration deal to provide a path to citizenship for 1.8 million Dreamers in exchange for $25 billion in border security funding. As BISR Deputy Director and core faculty member Suzanne Schneider notes in the Washington Post, the simultaneity highlights an odd contrast in the American vision of personal and national security: “[A] powerful narrative persists that immigrants are preternaturally violent and that our safety is best guaranteed by closing our doors to anyone with brown skin….Yet while one hand draws up plans for border walls, the other doles out AR-15s to white, male, homegrown terrorists…”

On what does the distinction depend? Pace Suzanne, “We all tell ourselves stories about who we are, what we do and how we differ from others—markers of distinction that undergird our individual and collective identities … [W]hite American perpetrators are deemed ‘troubled’ or ‘disturbed,’ while their Muslim counterparts are purportedly motivated by nothing but religious fanaticism. … We’ve embraced the false dichotomy: If browser history and social media accounts link a shooter to some form of radical Islam, then he is a terrorist … even though the animating factor may have been mental illness.”

“Where does a political motive diverge from a delusion? Only in the case of Muslim killers are we confident that we can draw a bright line.”

You can read the whole thing here.