Showing the Faces of White Supremacy

“Why do people share these guy’s [sic] photos. Don’t you realise that’s exactly what they want?”

This is the comment a follower left on QC’s Facebook page after I posted a photo of the El Paso shooter along with a blog post about the massacre. I reject the premise that we should not show the face of a killer. I understand that there are terrorists who seek infamy from heinous acts, and who may thrive off notoriety. However, we need to put a face to white supremacy and domestic terrorism, and in most cases, it’s the face of young, white males.

Statista reports that 64 out of the 114 mass shootings that occurred in the United States between 1982 and August, 2019 were committed by white shooters. That’s more than half. Showing the faces of these murderers helps to combat the narrative that the real threats to our society and the United States are people of color including Black people and immigrants. Showing their faces is important if we are going to put an end to the criminalization of people of color and immigrants. The media matters, and as a Black person, I experience the effects of media’s power every day. I’m met with stereotypes about Black people and Black women in particular everywhere I go whether it’s in the workplace, churches or schools. Noam Chomsky addresses the power and political implications of the media in his book “Manufacturing Consent.” We can’t deny that what we see affects our opinions and actions, especially when it comes to what we allow and support as American citizens. This is why the president continues his hate-filled rhetoric about people of color and immigrants.

The 1915 film, “The Birth of a Nation” is the perfect example of how media is used to shape the public’s opinion of a group of people. In the movie, a white actor in blackface portrays a Black man attacking a white woman and engaging in all kinds of criminal behaviors. Many suggest that the movie revived the Klu Klux Klan. Even today, Black men and boys are criminalized in the media to shape public opinion and influence outcomes in the educational and judicial systems to name a few. The “Preschool to Prison Pipeline” is an example. It shows that 47 percent of preschool students who are suspended are Black despite being 18 percent of the total preschool population. Studies also show that “Black men who commit the same crimes as white men receive federal prison sentences that are, on average, nearly 20 percent longer, according to a new report on sentencing disparities from the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC).” These are only a few reasons why I feel passionate about showing the killers’ faces from the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton. These men, who happen to be white, are not misunderstood. They did not play too many video games. They did not come from “great families” and merely made mistakes as New Jersey family court Judge James Troiano said of an accused rapist. According to their own manifestos, they are racists and white supremacists. It’s time for us to call “a spade a spade.” 

Also, let’s juxtapose the pictures of these domestic terrorists to images of Black death. When it comes to the violent deaths of Black people at the hands of the police, we are bombarded by those images. Many of us saw Philando Castile die in his car after being shot by the police. We saw Michael Brown’s bloody body in the street. We witnessed Eric Garner be choked to death. We saw Sandra Bland violently detained by police. We saw little Tamir Rice shot to death in seconds by police. Why do we want to veil the faces of those who commit mass murder, but when it comes to Black death, the masses are allowed to consume those images for weeks and sometimes years?   

We know that words have power. Well, images have power too. It’s time for America to stop covering its eyes to some of the real threats to our society – racism and white supremacy. Maybe if we not only name these evils – but also stare them in the face – we will be in a better position to defeat them.

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