Negative stereotypes fuel US gun rampages

By Wang Hongwei Source:Global Times Published: 2019/8/6 19:47:26

Photo: IC

Mass shootings walloped the US states of Texas and Ohio within 24 hours. In El Paso, Texas, at least 20 people were shot dead and 26 injured, making the rampage the worst one after the incident at a Las Vegas concert in 2017. 

In the eyes of many, the crime rate associated with people of color in the US has been high, so people generally think that black people are dangerous. However, in recent years, the worst shootings in the US were mostly carried out by white gunmen. It may come as a surprise to some that white people are dangerous in the US as well. But the fact is that hate crimes in the US have been on the rise in recent years, particularly those caused by white supremacists. Unfortunately, the danger posed by white people does not get enough attention. 

People tend to assess risks on the basis of previous scenarios and experiences. Yet there could be black horse or black swan events. However, the truth is crimes committed by white supremacists are no longer a rare occurrence.

It's not surprising that ordinary people are influenced by the fixed mind-set, but if it is the same with the department of public security, the result could be disastrous. For example, terrorists are often portrayed as poor, illiterate, vulgar, single, eccentric and so on by most people. This unfounded prejudice is bred by their fixed mind-set. The main perpetrator of the 2005 London bombings was a mild-mannered teacher from a special school. 

In industrialized societies, due to low population mobility, scarcity of information, as well as security risks, people could always find the pattern of emergency incidents. However, in today's information society, globalization, industrialization and urbanization are developing rapidly. The pattern and evolution of security risks has undergone great changes, and new features, including novelty, complexity and uncertainty have come to the fore. 

In this new situation, the department of public security may make fatal mistakes by clinging to the old thinking mode. Nonetheless, in the highly networked era, any careless omission can lead to a butterfly effect. There are many reasons for the frequent shootings by white gunmen in the US. Such incidents that are harmful to public safety still fail to create enough awareness and vigilance. And this is obviously related to the fixated mind-set that black people rather than white people are dangerous.

After a shooting in the US, media and analysts are always focusing on gun control, while the more complex issues beyond the policy debate are rarely discussed. Until now, the danger posed by white people does not seem to be alarming enough for Americans. Long influenced by US media, even non-Americans tend to believe black people are dangerous in the US. The reality is sending us a warning in a highly uncertain information society. Departments and organizations related to public security must break the shackles of such ossified thinking. It may help better understand the phenomenon of frequent gun rampages by white people.

The author is director of Research Center for National Security, the School of Public Administration and Policy, Renmin University of China.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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