After Texas shootings, Prof. George Ciccariello-Maher asks: 'What makes White men so prone to this kind of behaviour?'

November 7, 2017

The November 5 shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, was one of the deadliest mass shootings in Texas state history. It comes only a month after the shooting massacre in Las Vegas, where another white man, Stephen Paddock, opened fire on concertgoers, killing 59 people, including himself.

The majority of mass shootings are carried out by white men. For more on the connections between race, white supremacy and mass shootings, Democracy Now! to George Ciccariello-Maher, political science professor at Drexel University and the author of Decolonizing Dialectics. He was banned from campus after questioning why mass shootings in the United States are almost always carried out by white men. The full transcript is below the video, reported from


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: But I wanted to bring George Ciccariello-Maher into this conversation, of Drexel University. You have been—you wrote immediately after the Las Vegas massacre, where the 64-year-old white man named Paddock had opened fire on concertgoers below, killing 59 of them. After you wrote, you were banned from the Drexel campus, after questioning why mass shootings in the United States are almost always carried out by white men? Is that right?

GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHER: Yes. And to be clear, when I began to write about what had happened in Las Vegas, I was really writing about this broad question, right? And I think this is a question that we all need to grapple with: When you see these cases of sort of mass—this shocking mass brutality, what is it that makes white men so prone to this kind of behavior? And what might be going on today in our country, in which people are stoking a sort of victim complex among white men? You know, what might be happening today to encourage this kind of behavior and to radicalize these kind of actions?

And I was immediately subject to a torrent of sort of abuse and threats from, you know, right-wing media outlets. And, you know, we’re talking about Breitbart, The Daily Caller and these kind of websites. And it was on the basis of those, and the purported threats that they represented, that I was excluded from campus. My classes were initially canceled, despite the fact that in my classes we had had conversations about this, despite the fact that my students are very knowledgeable and intuitively grasp what is going on in the world around them, and were open to having conversations about these difficult things.

AMY GOODMAN: So, your response to what happened on Sunday?

GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHER: I mean, I think we’re seeing these kinds of atrocities occurring, and we need to be really asking not only “What can we do?” I think these are important questions—what kind of immediate institutional reforms, whether it’s targeted—you know, targeted gun control for domestic violence might be effective, but we also can’t lose sight of these broader questions, and ask, “What is going on in our society today? What is happening with regard to not only white people, but white men, in particular? What is going on with regard to race and gender as they function together?”

And in this case, in particular, again, we don’t know all the facts. We don’t know all the details. But we’re talking about institutions, that also serve as breeding grounds for violent behavior. We’re talking about not only sexual assault in the military, but domestic abuse of those surrounding it and those outside of it. And we’re talking about other institutions, as well, that you could bring into the picture, institutions like policing, in which domestic violence is absolutely rife and in which it’s very difficult to keep weapons out of the hands of those domestic abusers.

And so, we need to think very deeply, I think, about the structural role of what’s going in the society. Trump is abroad selling weapons. And we’ve got someone who, in this case, apparently, was trained, you know, trained to engage in violence abroad. And yet we act surprised when these people have breaks, when they fall into some kind of crisis, when they find maybe feelings of entitlement frustrated, that they then resort to violence, when we’re talking about a structure and institutional apparatus that trains people in violence and that encourages them to feel as though they’re on the losing side of history. You know, Trump makes hay out of the fact that white men, in particular, feel as though they’re the victims of this society, despite being in absolute control of it. And this is something that is powerfully dangerous, and it’s why we’re not seeing only the rise in violent attacks, more generally, and the rise of far-right movements, but we’re certainly seeing, you know, clearly, sort of some very serious incidents of mass violence, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, what’s interesting, yesterday, for hour after hour, after this horror on television—you know, it came out that there was this mass killing in Texas, and they said the worst church massacre in U.S. history, and they said the worst Texas massacre—no one was saying anything about the killer, hour after hour. But clearly, people had seen him, right? Some had survived, people outside, the police. He was dead, whether it was self-inflicted or someone shot him. They clearly knew. And they were talking about, one, the tragedy and, two, not saying anything. And it only led us to believe it must be a white man who did this, because we would have known, I think, right away if the person was a person of color or, certainly, Muslim. We know that often before—when it’s a case where someone is a Muslim or person of color, that’s what they say immediately. Now it was just left hanging, and so you knew that this would be the case.

GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHER: That’s absolutely the case, I think. You know, whiteness is never seen as a cause, in and of itself, of these kinds of massacres, of other forms of violence, despite the fact that whiteness is a structure of privilege and it’s a structure of power, and a structure that, when it feels threatened, you know, lashes out. And so, that’s the kind of thing that we really need to think about, not only why is it—and I think there’s a lot of attention to the fact that we demonize often Muslims or, you know, other people of color when these attacks occur. The far right, of course, jumps on any violence by people of color—and yet, you know, doesn’t want to talk about the real deep structures of white supremacy in our society, and again, not just the fringe, not just the Nazi movements, but what people are going through every day and what it is that is driving people to these kinds of situations, where they feel so entitled to dominance that when that’s questioned, they can explode in these very, very unpredictable ways—

AMY GOODMAN: And then—

GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHER: —and on targets that, you know, are not—you know, it’s not a question of white supremacy playing a role simply because someone is targeting people of color. We’re talking about people who are having, you know, mental—clear mental issues. But again, the cause needs to be identified outside and beyond that, and we need to think much, much harder about what’s going on in our society that makes it so sick.

AMY GOODMAN: And very clearly, to clarify, so what is your status now at Drexel? And explain how other people have been treated in other situations. You cannot go on campus?

GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHER: Yes, that’s—that is the status at this point. I’m currently teaching classes online. My students are protesting and mobilizing to have me returned to campus, because there’s no reason, certainly, to exclude faculty from campus for having important public conversations and for teaching about hard questions. That’s what we’re there to do.

But what you’re seeing is a broad wave of aggression against faculty. You’ve seen dozens of cases, whether it’s, you know, Tommy Curry at Texas A&M, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor at Princeton, Johnny Eric Williams at Trinity College. You’re seeing far-right websites creating, stoking outrage, attacking faculty members who dare to speak about white supremacy and racism. That’s really the common thread of all these cases, is these are anti-racist faculty members, usually people of color, who are targeted, who are attacked, who are threatened, and really having their lives threatened, over being willing to talk about what’s going on in the country today.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, George Ciccariello-Maher, we want to thank you for being with us, political science professor at Drexel.

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