Friday, October 2, 2015

Chris Harper Mercer's "Mixed Race" Identity and the Umpqua Community College Shooting

It is a new/old day in America. On Thursday, there was another mass shooting. On Friday, today, and tomorrow, and in the week's thereafter America's politicians will do nothing to stop the plague of gun violence. This is a choice. It is cowardice. The weakness is caused by the grip exerted on America's political elites by the ammosexuals and gun money barons in the National Rifle Association.

Chris Harper Mercer killed 9 people at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. Much will be written about what his murder spree reveals--none of it really new--about toxic aggrieved masculinity, gun culture, ammosexuals, the online Right-wing sewers that gave him aid and comfort, and other matters.

I would like to call attention to one detail about Mercer's personhood, a detail that may be overlooked or not discussed by the mainstream news media out of fear of being called "racist", or alternatively because they lack the conceptual tools (and will not feature experts who possess them) to talk about race and the color line in a nuanced way.

Mercer identifies as "mixed race": his father is white and his mother is black. In America's one drop system of racial hierarchy and identification Chris Harper Mercer is considered "black". During America's centuries-long slave regime, he could have been auctioned off as human property; Mercer would have been subjected to the rules of Jim and Jane Crow.

But in America, there is an odd dynamic when a "mixed race" person does something noteworthy or infamous.

When Barack Obama was elected president, there were many white Americans who could not, and many still cannot, accept that he is a black man. Obama's mother is white. He identifies as black. Obama does something legendary in winning the White House; there are white folks who want to credit claim as white privilege deems that they must always get all the toys. But, if Obama was a young man who was arrested for selling drugs or committing a violent crime, his "whiteness" would be fully ignored and he would just be another "black" criminal.

Elliot Rodger, a mass murderer, driven by aggrieved white masculinity, killed six people. Again, the fact that he is "mixed race" was used by those who do not want to talk about toxic white masculinity to deflect and derail any critical intervention on the topic.

George Zimmerman, a likely sociopath killed Trayvon Martin, and was embraced as a hero by the White Right. As such, white racism and white racial paranoiac thinking allowed George Zimmerman to kill Trayvon Martin with impunity. But again, racial identity as a "mixed race" white Hispanic was used to muddy the waters of justice and public opinion about the role that Zimmerman's (now obvious) racial animus played in this decision to shoot Trayvon Martin.

How will the "stain of blackness" complicate and color the narrative about Chris Harper Mercer's life and his decision to commit mass murder? I am not yet sure. But it most certainly will be present as questions of race, masculinity, and violence are deeply, and perhaps even inseparably, intertwined with one another.

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