In a CNN report examining mass shootings on K-12 campuses between 2009 and 2019, the data showed:
- The majority of the shootings happened in suburban schools.
- The majority of the shootings happened between 8:00 am and 4:00 pm.
- The majority of the shootings occurred in majority white schools.
- The shootings were typically carried out by young white males.
Time and time again, we hear reports about young white males entering their schools with loaded guns and shooting up innocent victims. Yet pervasive myths about Black men ensure that many white people are convinced that Black males are the biggest threat to society.
Given this consistent trend of white male gun violence in K-12 schools, I can’t help but wonder why we don’t hear nearly as many stories about Black boys shooting up schools and why white boys are so much more likely to be school shooters. Let’s explore this idea, shall we?
The Chips Are Stacked Against Black Boys
For generations, white dominant culture has conditioned us to believe that white folx are incapable of being threatening and represent the highest form of civility. Therefore, there’s no need for security guards or metal detectors in white suburban schools because white folx are viewed as “inherently civil” and are given the benefit of the doubt that they will “act right” according to the dominant culture criteria.
In general, Black folx, especially Black boys, never get that benefit of the doubt. With all the internalized trauma that they accumulate from their daily oppression in schools, how is it that they exercise a greater sense of self-discipline and composure to not shoot up the very schools that force them to compromise their intersectional identities each and every day?
If any subgroup of people has a more than justified reason to shoot up a school, it’s Black boys. Perhaps, the reason why we don’t hear as many stories about Black boys shooting up schools is that they generally enter their schools with the mindset that the chips are always stacked against them.
Black boys enter schools where the curriculum doesn’t speak to them, the rules and policies dehumanize them, the teachers fail to see them, and school leaders are quick to suspend them. Let’s also consider the fact that, in most predominantly Black schools, students must pass through metal detectors upon entering the building and the police presence is significantly greater than that of white suburban schools.
These traumas are part of the larger traumas Black folx have experienced for centuries, and our way of being in the world has been greatly shaped by them in ways that are unfathomable to white people.
Black Boys Have Learned to Compartmentalize Their Trauma
Black folx have always been a functionally depressed people. I’m not saying this as a compliment or even a badge of honor but rather as a fact. Our history in this nation as marginalized and oppressed people has taught us, more than anything, how to function in the midst of internal and external struggle. Our fight to matter and be humanized has historically been and continues to be an uphill battle. The dominant culture informs us that our default is to be depressed and oppressed. Because of that, we have no choice but to develop a toolkit of compensatory strategies that help us compartmentalize our trauma. For some of us, it may be prayer and worship. For others, it may be therapy, exercise, alcohol, weed, or indifference.
We are resilient and persistent—not by choice but because the oppressive systems that govern us force our hand to be that way. There are many issues that could potentially trigger us into John Q mode, namely the perpetual loss of Black life via police violence, the rise of gentrification and food insecurity in our neighborhoods, the prevalence of anti-Black racism in academic and professional spaces, etc. In spite of all these challenges, we still manage to figure out a way to keep it moving.
For many Black boys, struggle is unfortunately a recurring theme in their young lives. They are accustomed to being the underdogs within their schools and navigating systems designed to keep them in an oppressed position. Due to their unique relationship with struggle and their subordinate status within the dominant culture, they have had much more exposure to disappointment, hardship, trials and tribulations.
Conversely, privileged white boys tend to have an easier road in life. Society is set up for them to win at all costs. So, in the rare moments where they’re on the losing side, some white boys lose their shit and go on a rampage, shooting innocent victims in their schools. Whether they want to acknowledge it or not, society has taught them that they should always emerge as the victor because white privilege is their ultimate cheat code.
With everything said, the time has come for all of us to accept the obvious truth: Black boys have been given a bad rap and the false narratives about them need to be rewritten.