The deadly peril of white privilege
Now how do you explain this? Scott Paul Beierle casually strolls into Hot Yoga Tallahassee in Tallahassee, Florida and just as causally blazes away inside and when the smoke clears, two innocents are dead and a score of others are wounded. Beierle is not gunned down by police but, just as casually, murders himself. Then explain this. Beierle was not some nameless, faceless kook, crank or nut case who drifted in off the street to commit murder and mayhem.
He was a college graduate and an army vet. He had a string of prior arrests for stalking, harassment and physical assault. He cut legal deals in each case. The result: no jail time. That wasn’t all. He had a history, which he didn’t try to hide, of making virulent racist, misogynist and anti-immigrant videos.
So, before Beierle’s murderous rampage, he was well-known to authorities and he posed a clear and present danger. Yet, this ticking time bomb walked free. That freedom cost lives, another community ripped apart in agony and the by now all-too-familiar soul search about how this could happen. Federal and local enforcement officials were no help in giving an answer. In a recent series of interviews, they bemoaned the obvious fact that white nationalist groups have surged in the nation and much of the surge has happened right under their noses. Their answer was tantamount to a throw up of the hands when they flatly said they had no real answer to the threat.
There’s no mystery why the impotence in response to the grave threat guys like Beierle pose. He was white, male, educated and a patriot. He had the right racial and social pedigree that immunized him from profiling, surveillance, scrutiny and, judging from his repeated arrest record, vigorous prosecution, conviction, and a lengthy stretch behind bars.
Countless surveys and studies have repeatedly shown that that there’s no such rarified pass from scrutiny for black or Hispanic males. The only time officials have slapped the domestic terror threat on organizations and have used every weapon, legal and illegal, to destroy the alleged domestic threat were to groups such as the Black Panthers and other black militant organizations. They had no problem figuring out what to do about them. They eliminated them.
The pattern is always predictably the same in the inevitable avalanche of news clips, press reports and news features on men such as Beierle in the aftermath of their murderous attack. They are described as “troubled,” “a loner,” hostile” and “no clue he was dangerous.” Trump, after one such mass murder, jumped in with the stock characterizations reserved for white mass killers, as “mentally disturbed,” “bad and erratic behavior” and with what’s hardly the revelation of the ages “a big problem.”
The Charlottesville, Virginia rampage by assorted white nationalist groups in August 2017 should have sounded loud the alarm bell that white nationalist and white supremacist groups have touched the delusional and loose wires in the heads of more than a few impressionable, distraught, alienated and unhinged young white males. They have easy access to the big killer guns and stocks of ammo. They are not routinely profiled by police. So they can take pictures with guns, parade with guns publicly and blast away at rifle ranges or at training sites. They have no fear of exposure or arrest.
The long, often bloody history of America is littered with groups that have imposed a kind of white frontier vigilantism on blacks, Hispanics, Asians and other pariah groups. For much of this history, they have committed violence with impunity and with a wink and nod from officials, judges and police agencies. They in effect rewrote the definition of what terrorism is and isn’t.
The painful fact is that Beierle is an integral part of this sordid American saga. He could easily be the neighbor next door, the parent at a PTA meeting at a local school or church and always a resident of a largely white suburban community. This makes it a near impossibility to turn the mirror inward and admit that kid who many merely write off as an eccentric, a loner or just a plain odd ball, could easily turn into a mass killer.
This is the case with Beierle. Even in death, he is not labeled a perennial menace to society or terror threat. The white privilege pass he and men like him get remain firmly in their pocket to our deadly peril.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst.