(Keeping) A Low Profile

"I'm what has gone out blithely and with noise returning." -- From A Man of the Middle Class by Gwendolyn Brooks Above my head I hear plantation lullabies. And their lyrics are lies written on t

Mar 15, 2001 at 2:06 pm

"I'm what has gone out blithely and with noise returning."

— From A Man of the Middle Class by Gwendolyn Brooks

Above my head I hear plantation lullabies. And their lyrics are lies written on the bullet-riddled bodies of dead, white schoolchildren.

They are little white, little black lies.

As a result of the repetitive and no-longer-surprising spate of soap operaesque school massacres, the media has, in its myopia, neglected to report on the profile of school shooters.

Yes, school shooters have a profile. And this, amidst all the news coverage of police profiling black drivers. Here we have an actual profile that, but for a brief mention on Nightline and several thoughtful pieces posted on Salon, has managed to slip below the media's radar.

Why are white, middle- to upper-class white boys in suburban and rural communities killing their classmates? I suppose an equally compelling and important question is why aren't we examining who it is?

It's partially due to the fact that discussing white boys killing their classmates adds a notch to the belt choking America's race question.

Meanwhile the racial gap is widened while answers are stifled.

In this profile of school shooters, blacks also hold a profile. A long-held secret among us is our quiet satisfaction, after the news breaks of another school shooting or postmodern massacre, when the shooter is a white person. Whew! What Negro wants the unabridged history of being a bad Negro thrown under a national microscope?

White people don't want that kind of inspection and nitpicking either. Since mainstream media is white-owned, they've gotten their wish.

But let's talk about it. Middle-class white boys take up guns — while their hands-off parents sleep — because of their fundamental disappointment over the failure of their white entitlement.

That's right. It's tantamount to seeing a white child melting down in a store while the parent either ignores the tantrum or reasons with the child. It's about a white boy not getting his way.

You can call it being bullied, outcast, disenfranchised, not picked for the team or getting dissed by the prettiest girl on campus. Whatever. White boys were conditioned and will continue to be conditioned to believe that whatever they desire they can acquire, and when the bottom falls out they plot.

It's fun! It's popular! All the kids are doing it!

And, to a different degree, that includes their black male counterparts. Only we call what they do "black male posturing." Murder is murder is murder, whether it's a brotha rolling back around the block with a hot Glock with the serial numbers filed off to settle up over some Tommy or FUBU gear or it's two white boys in a Colorado suburb armed with guns they procured from gun shows.

It's all bad. It's all obliteration.

The blaring difference is the socioeconomic strata that separate the boys in their disparate 'hoods. Depending on their environment, angry black boys will annihilate their physical surroundings — by selling crack and women and populating corners to the point of ownership — and wake up the next morning, trapped and further angered by the havoc they've wreaked.

Then they blame whitey for leaving them in the cage they've constructed and destructed with their own hands. Such outlandish behavior might feel at the time as liberating as a slave uprising, but in reality it's plain old niggerant.

Conversely, white boys will kill their oppressors in the hopes of getting front-page attention.

Despite, and because of, their differences, in one verb — murder — black boys and white boys become twinned. It's a sick and mangled search for their own private Idahoes, the search for their fathers' gardens. It's what black novelist Norman Kelley calls the MS/MD Syndrome — Monkey See/Monkey Do.

And their parents will do the same as you. While all this killing is occurring and black America is sighing with relief over the whiteness of school shooters, on the other side of town or the country white people, stuck on repeat, utter, "This couldn't happen here."

It's a statement thick with racism and stupidity. Read that as: Not in this (white) neighborhood, in this (high) tax bracket and away from inner city (black) strife.

So, exactly how many more middle-class, "bullied" and "outcast" white kids must murder their classmates before their grief-stricken onlookers realize it does, can and will continue to happen "here?"

It reminds me of my days reporting for the Journal-News in Hamilton. I was working the weekend shift, and one bright and beautiful Saturday afternoon the police radio crackled. There'd been a shooting in Lindenwald, a white working-class community between Hamilton and Fairfield. A white teen-aged boy, with a single shot to the chest, killed his best friend, also white and male, over a girl.

When I arrived on the scene mere seconds after the shooting — the dead boy's feet were visible jutting from his mother's front room — I spoke with traumatized neighbors. One (white) woman, her face frozen with disbelief, told (black) me she couldn't believe it had "happened on her street."

"It's something that you hear about happening more in the Second Ward," she said, referring to Hamilton's black neighborhood within walking distance of Lindenwald.

I took a picture of medics working on the dead boy as they wheeled him to the ambulance. I did all the interviews. On my way back to the newsroom, I checked my notes. I knew I had all the facts.

I just wanted to make sure the woman had actually said what I thought I heard. And, in fact, she had.

"It couldn't happen here," I'd written in my chicken scratch.

But it had, and it does.

contact Kathy y. wilson: [email protected]