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Yet another armed white shooter is taken alive

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Robert Aaron Long, the alleged mass shooter in Atlanta, is taken into custody without incident. His non-violent capture is not a fluke, aberration, or an anomaly. We have seen this time and again, a white mass killer guns down multitudes in shopping centers, schools, and in public places, and in almost all cases, they meekly surrender and are arrested.

Now this is hardly an appeal to start blasting away at white killers. When police effect a non-violent arrest of a dangerous killer, this is a supreme tribute to the skill and professionalism of the officers. They are playing it strictly by the book. That is, if there is no direct threat of attack by the suspect, a lawful arrest requires that minimum-to-no force be used.

Despite the monstrous crime he’s charged with, Long, as any other arrestee, is entitled to his day in court and not a street-corner slaying. Yet, it’s still hard to stomach the pictures of Long and other guys like him being gently handcuffed and calmly being talked to by arresting officers after their rampage. Those pictures stand in stark and infuriating contrast to the picture of men such as George Floyd and before him, Eric Garner, being body-slammed to the pavement by officers and then choked to death by an officer.

In almost all cases, these men are unarmed, harming no one, yet they are dead. Long was armed to the teeth. He targeted and executed Asian women at multiple spa locations. There is lots of speculation that the guy was sex-driven and on some kind of religious search-and-destroy mission against sex temptation supposedly fueled by Asian women. But this smacks more of a search for something, anything, to make sense of what he did, rather than face the brutal fact that his alleged sex fetish notwithstanding, the murders are a racially loaded hate crime.

Long’s deliberate targeting of Asian women can’t be separated from two hideous and recurring facts. One, as the Jan. 6 Capitol terror attack amply showed, most of the acts of domestic terrorism are committed by young white males. And there’s often a direct link between their acts and white supremacy groups, or at the very least an addiction to white supremacist propaganda websites, and literature.

In more than a few cases, FBI and other law enforcement agencies have had early warnings about some of the mass killers. But they still walk free. This freedom costs lives, another community ripped apart in agony, and the by now all-too-familiar soul-search about how this could happen.

The second hideous fact is that a certain former president giddily fanned even more hate and hysteria against Asian Americans with his repeated branding of the COVID pandemic as the “Chinese virus.” Asian American and Pacific Islander civil rights groups repeatedly warned of a massive uptick in verbal abuse and even physical attacks on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Even with Trump out of office, there has been no let-up in the number of harassing incidents against Asians.

There’s no mystery why there’s such impotence in response to the grave threat guys like Long pose. He is white, male, educated. He has the right racial and social pedigree that immunizes him from profiling, surveillance, scrutiny.

The pattern is predictably the same in the inevitable avalanche of news clips, press reports and news features on men such as Long in the aftermath of their murderous attack. They are described as “troubled,” “a loner,” “hostile,” and yet “no clue he was dangerous.” In Long’s case, he is described sympathetically as a solid, churchgoing guy.

The painful fact is that Long 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 at 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 the kid who many merely write off as an eccentric, a loner or just a plain oddball can easily turn into a mass killer.

Long will not be labeled a perennial menace to society, or terror threat. And that’s why men such as him almost always live another day, and men such as George Floyd don’t.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst.