The U.S. Is Much Less Xenophobic Than Europe
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The Wrong Kind of Mass Shootings

One of the more grimly amusing things an American can do is watch the international press try to decide which shootings are worth covering. Now don't get me wrong -- it is indeed the case that multiple-victim shootings happen routinely in America. But not all get international coverage.

This is because the shooters, and often the victims as well, are usually gang members. And much more often than not, black. This sort of thing doesn't fit in at all with the preferred narrative, which is gun-crazed white supremacist cops and citizens opening fire on hapless young black males. In the first few hours, any shooting may seem to a Guardian news editor like a potential confirmation that there is 'open season' on young black males. But then the narrative is ruined by new facts, and the story is dropped like a hot potato.

The latest incident to get this treatment were the shootings in Austin, Texas about a day ago. Believe it or not, the incident went viral, generating multiple news stories in the British press and even one in India! Why Indian readers should be concerned about some shooting happening on the other side of the globe is beyond me. Unless, of course, it turns out to be the last installment in racist gun-mad crackers mowing down innocent black youth.

But alas, it usually doesn't. The last story that went 'poof' before this one was the shooting at the Club Blu nightclub six days ago, which killed two people and left almost 20 injured. Again, the international press was all over this, hoping it might be the next Orlando or Charleston. But alas, the victims were all black, the shooters will also turn out to be black, and the reason for the mindless carnage will be some stupid gang beef or perceived insult.

The New York Times recently looked at 358 cases of shootings involving four or more victims:

Seeking deeper insight into the phenomenon, The New York Times identified and analyzed these 358 shootings with four or more casualties, drawing on two databases assembled from news reports and citizen contributors, and then verifying details with law enforcement agencies....

They chronicle how easily lives are shattered when a firearm is readily available — in a waistband, a glove compartment, a mailbox or garbage can that serves as a gang’s gun locker. They document the mayhem spawned by the most banal of offenses: a push in a bar, a Facebook taunt, the wrong choice of music at a house party. They tally scores of unfortunates in the wrong place at the wrong time: an 11-month-old clinging to his mother’s hip, shot as she prepared to load him into a car; a 77-year-old church deacon, killed by a stray bullet while watching television on his couch.

The shootings took place everywhere, but mostly outdoors: at neighborhood barbecues, family reunions, music festivals, basketball tournaments, movie theaters, housing project courtyards, Sweet 16 parties, public parks. Where motives could be gleaned, roughly half involved or suggested crime or gang activity. Arguments that spun out of control accounted for most other shootings, followed by acts of domestic violence.

Most of the shootings occurred in economically downtrodden neighborhoods. These shootings, by and large, are not a middle-class phenomenon.

The divide is racial as well. Among the cases examined by The Times were 39 domestic violence shootings, and they largely involved white attackers and victims. So did many of the high-profile massacres, including a wild shootout between Texas biker gangs that left nine people dead and 18 wounded.

Over all, though, nearly three-fourths of victims and suspected assailants whose race could be identified were black. Some experts suggest that helps explain why the drumbeat of dead and wounded does not inspire more outrage.

“Clearly, if it’s black-on-black, we don’t get the same attention because most people don’t identify with that. Most Americans are white,” said James Alan Fox, a professor of criminology at Northeastern University in Boston. “People think, ‘That’s not my world. That’s not going to happen to me.’ ”

What most of the international press still doesn't realize is that the majority of gun homicides are committed by American blacks. White Americans own a lot of guns, the murder rate among white Americans is only slightly higher than the European average. The murder rate among blacks is, in comparison to Europe, astronomical. Here's a chart from a Quartz explainer on the racial dynamics of crime in the US:


The majority of Europeans, even the ones who think they understand the US, are ignorant of this phenomenon. The reason is simple: black-on-black crime doesn't fit The Narrative of a nation mired in racism, where hapless blacks cower in fear of being gunned down by racist whites. Instead, it paints a more complex picture in which blacks do not appear exclusively as helpless victims. And why confuse your readers with complexity when there's a Narrative to be pushed?