Progressive Revival

Progressive Revival

The Fort Hood Shootings and the White Privilege of Disassociation

Immediately after it became known that the shooter at Fort Hood was South Asian and had a Muslim sounding name the condemnations came in from every major Islamic organization in America. In my inbox I got emails from Daisy Khan and Feisal Rauf, Eboo Patel, Shahed Amanullah and others expressing, on behalf of their religion, their sorrow and grief for the victims and the families of those who were killed and wounded. These Muslims felt the need to urgently and publically disassociated themselves from any violence that is in any way connected to Islam, and ask for calm in the face of this renewed suspicion among some quarters that Islam is the reason for this violent act.
It reminds me of African Americans who cringe when they hear reports of a crime done by another African American fearing that the incident will reflect upon them because they share the same racial background. More recently, Asian Americans, especially of Korean decent, experienced a similar inclination to disassociate their own race with the shooter at Virginia Tech. And even more recently, Jews felt somehow implicated as a race and/or religion in the crimes of the swindler Bernie Madoff.
It is in recognition of my own privilege as a white Christian male in America that I do not feel any need to disassociate myself from the many heinous things that white Christian men do because I already don’t associate myself with them and neither does the rest of society. We who are White, Christian and Male (WCMs) should ask ourselves this basic question: When we heard about the Oklahoma bomber, Columbine, or the shooter at the Holocaust museum – all horrible crimes committed by WCMs did we think to ourselves – ‘oh, this will reflect badly on me?’
The answer is no. Why? Because still in this country, White, Male, Christians are considered normative and therefore the range of WCM behavior, from very good to very bad, simply represents the wide range of human behavior. I know I have nothing in common with Timothy McVeigh and so does the rest of American society. Unfortunately, people of other races and religions in America do not have the benefit of recognition that there are very good people and very bad people among them. Instead, the actions of one person of a minority group reflects upon the reputation and sense of security and worth of the entire group.
This has to stop.
It is not fair for a young Muslim student in Seattle to bear the burden of association or responsibility for the shooting in Texas. The two have nothing to do with one another. Of course we need to investigate the factors, including religious ones, that may have gone into this horrible shooter incident at Fort Hood, just as we needed to look into the influences on Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma or Von Brunn at the Holocaust Museum. But this event no more reflects on the whole of Islam or South Asians than McVeigh or Von Brunn reflects on White, Christian Males. It is time to extend the privilege of disassociation from evil outliers to all races and religions in America.

Comments read comments(17)
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Lubna Malik

posted November 9, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Thank you, Dean Paul. We’re slowly getting to that point of WCMs not being the only ones who enjoy freedom from negative religious and ethnic stereotypes.

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Nate W

posted November 9, 2009 at 5:55 pm

As a white Christian male, I’ve found myself having to answer for the crimes of other white Christian males on several occasions. You need to get out more.

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posted November 9, 2009 at 9:00 pm

Thank you; well said. I was reflecting in the last day or so how no one came out and called for an investigation of all Christian fundamentalists in the light of the murder of the abortion doctor or of militia members in the light of Timothy McVeigh’s crime, and so forth and so on. However, there’s such a rush to judgment against Islam and all of its adherents–even talk of whether they should be screened out of the military. You are right, Paul, this has got to stop and cooler heads must prevail. Otherwise, I fear our country will go backwards and repeat some of its heinous acts of the past.

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Mary Foulke

posted November 9, 2009 at 9:35 pm

Thank you Dean Paul. I have yet to meet a WCM who hears about a WCM committing a crime and worries about how it will affect him personally. Maybe Nate is thinking about taking responsibility for making things right, which is not all bad. It is just that WCM have a choice to take responsibility or not; thank you for doing so.

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Blue Collar Todd

posted November 9, 2009 at 11:46 pm

Maybe those who agree with this do not remember the DHS report warning of a rise in “right wing” violence. Or when the abortionist George Tiller was killed, all Christians were suspects. I have no problem with fundamentalists but we need to distinguish between the fruit of Muslim and Christian ones. Christian fundamentalists die for their faith while preaching the Gospel of repentance and the exclusive salvation through Jesus Christ. While Muslim fundamentalists kill the “infidel”. Both are consistent in that they are following the object of their faith to where it goes.

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Deswin Gbala

posted November 10, 2009 at 2:50 pm

When a person acts out the evil residing in their heart, what does that have to do with color, religion, and social class? A person’s ontology is not a signifier to their good will, neither can murderous actions be a signifier to their religion and ethnicity. America is pervasive with racial biases and discrimination and that has to stop, period. Brotherly love and accountability for universal brotherly hospitality must be the transcendent precept to all actions despite religion, ethnicity, social classification–connecting with compassion to the understanding of the human condition.

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Paul T.

posted November 11, 2009 at 10:05 am

BlueCollarTodd: To be a fundamentalist Muslim does not mean to kill people for your faith. I have many fundamentalist Muslim friends and to them being fundamentally Muslim means to believe in only one God and that Muhamad is his prophet, pray 5 times a day, fast during the month of Ramadan, give alms to the poor, go to Mecca for Hajj sometime in their lives. They don’t kill anyone, ever.
I don’t share their convictions, but it’s better if we Christians don’t misrepresent them, either. I’m sure that your misunderstanding is a result of not knowing any fundamentalist Muslims yourself, or insisting on a definition for Muslims that they don’t share.

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Katie T.

posted November 11, 2009 at 3:54 pm

Excellent point of view which I have not yet seen in all the media on this event. I would like to point out, however, that Hassan is not South Asian. He is American-born of Palestinian parents.

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Tom LeGrand

posted November 11, 2009 at 10:14 pm

“Christian fundamentalists die for their faith while preaching the Gospel of repentance and the exclusive salvation through Jesus Christ.”
I’m just going to say it straight-up: That’s a steaming mound.
Christian Fundamentalists–at least some who act drastically–die preaching a gospel of repentance for others and exclusion for themselves. If you think God needs for you to shoot someone or blow something up to call people to repentance, then you really are not a fundamentalist. You are actually missing an essential fundamental: Faith.

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Your Name

posted November 11, 2009 at 10:43 pm

Here’s an important article to read about this subject:
In fact, just about ANYTHING Prager writes is worth reading. He is perhaps one of the clearest thinkers / moralists of our time.

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Lane Savant

posted November 12, 2009 at 12:59 pm

Well… war, armies, forts, soldiers, fighter planes, bombers, it’s all about killing people anyway, so what if one individual steps out of line a bit?
Religion is just a thin spread of butter on the stale bread of human life.
It’s business as usual.

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posted November 13, 2009 at 11:11 am

Let’s see how this article fails logically…
To be a “White Christian Male” (or WCM) IS NOT necessary and IS NOT sufficient to be a terrorist (as we experience terrorism predominantly today).
To be a “Muslim Fundamentalist” IS a necessary condition but IS NOT sufficient to be a terrorist (as we experience terrorism predominantly today).
Ergo, we need to keep a close eye on “Muslim Fundamentalists.”
Just telling it like it is.

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posted November 13, 2009 at 5:06 pm

As a follower of Jesus, I didn’t know that I was a suspect in the George Tiller murder.

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posted November 13, 2009 at 5:11 pm

Who shapes your imagination more? Dennis Prager? Or the One who said, “Blessed are the peace makers” and “love your enemies” and “pray for your enemies”?

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posted November 13, 2009 at 6:43 pm

But aren’t white Christian males “associated” when a politician or conservative commentator makes an ignorant racial comment, for example? Maybe part of the reason that WCMs don’t need to disassociate from many violent crimes is that they are often not committed “in the name of religion”.
I can think of plenty of times I’ve felt the desire to disassociate from things that WCMs do; they just happen to be public comments or attitudes directed toward other ethnic groups or religions, not violent crimes.

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posted November 13, 2009 at 8:50 pm

That, Robert, sounds to me like the crime of WCM is prejudice.

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Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist

posted November 25, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Umm… he wasn’t South Asian. He was Palestinian/Middle Eastern. But this is a good essay.

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