US mass shootings: We pray the shooter isn't Black


As the news slowly unfolded that another gunman was shooting innocent people, this time at a Country music bar in Thousand Oaks California, early reports about the gunman siad that he had ‘beard and was in black’.  At that moment my heart sank, not just for those victims and the unimaginable pain their families and friends would endure, but also how this mass shooting would play out if the gunman was indeed Black and/or a Muslim, as was suggested.

I had the very same emotions in regards the awful massacre in the Pittsburgh ‘Tree of Life’ synagogue and the pipe bombs that were sent to prominent Democrats: ‘I pray the killer or would-be killer isn’t Black'.

In all three cases the perpetrators were neither Black nor Muslim, which of course for the victims and their families caught up in this nightmare is irrelevant. But for us, whether you’re in the USA or Europe, it is important because too many media outlets and politicians racialise and politicise the story if the perpetrator is Black or Muslim. Furthermore, they will wilfully downplay the narrative if the individual is a racist, and worse still an extreme white supremacist. Mental health is always highlighted as an issue or explanation for a white supremacists, but not for black political extremists.

The fact is in the USA, UK and the rest of Europe, far-Right extremism is a growing source of serious concern. According to the Southern Poverty Law Centre there are nearly 1000 white supremist organised groups in the USA, many of whom will have legal weapons that in many countries would constitute a militia. In Europe, far-Right political parties with links to violent extremism are now well ensconced in national governments, including Italy, Denmark, Germany, Poland and Hungary.

Here in the UK the Home Office figures show that the rise in far-Right extremism has grown by nearly a quarter and constitutes a real threat to our society. They also stated that Islamic extremism and White supremacists feed off each other. Nobody doubts that. The difference is, however, when the shooter or terrorist is Black or Muslim the backlash to those communities is severely felt. We - Black people and Muslims - 'are all to blame.'

In contrast we seem to ignore the link between an ongoing anti-immigrant narrative and more emboldened and aggressive far-Right groups.

Simon Woolley