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Never let a mass shooting go to waste when it can serve the cause of identity politics


FOR those who choose to see the world entirely through the lens of race – a rapidly growing demographic in this third decade of the twenty-first century – January 2023 has been a perplexing and disconcerting month when it comes to the racial configurations of violent crime.

First, there were the 11 people murdered in an attack at a dance studio in Monterey Park near Los Angeles on January 21. Those killed were all Asian-Americans, as was the gunman who later took his own life in a shopping centre car park. The victims ranged in age from 57 to 76, and the perpetrator, Huu Can Tran, an immigrant from China, whose motivations remain unclear, was 72, a ripe old age for one who engages in mass slaughter of this kind.

Four days later another mass shooting took place in Half Moon Bay, a picturesque coastal city about 30 miles south of San Francisco. Again, the perpetrator was Asian-American, although two of the seven victims appear to be Hispanic. (Oh, how I detest having to categorise human beings like this, assigning them to contrived groupings conjured up by some faceless bureaucrat.)

In the aftermath of both of these horrendous crimes, before the perpetrators had been identified, speculative rumblings were heard in the corporate media that the shootings were yet more examples of anti-Asian hate crimes, comparisons being made between what took place in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay and the three shootings that occurred at massage parlours in metropolitan Atlanta on March 16, 2021, in which six of the eight people murdered were women of Asian descent. While the killer, a 21-year-old white male, denied any animus against Asians, claiming instead that he was addicted to sex and that the murders were inspired by his desire to efface the objects of his lust, the mass shootings are categorised an anti-Asian hate crime, despite there being no evidence to support this claim.

This reminds me of the massacre in 2016 at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando, Florida, when 49 mostly gay men, 90 per cent of whom were described as Latino, were murdered by Omar Mateen, the son of Afghan immigrants who had sworn allegiance to ISIS leader al-Baghdadi and said he carried out the shootings to protest against the American-led interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Again, there was not a shred of evidence that the murderer was motivated by the identities of his victims, but this did not stem a flood of reports that Mateen was motivated by homophobia.

Never let a mass shooting or other egregious crime go to waste when it can serve the cause of identity politics.

Which brings me to the recent events in Memphis, Tennessee, one of America’s most dangerous cities. I refer to the brutal beating of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols by five police after a routine traffic stop on January 7. Nichols, who had no criminal record and, despite being 6ft 3ins, weighed just under 150 pounds due to Crohn’s disease. He died three days later. The officers have been charged with second-degree murder.

The aforementioned mass killings may seem to have little to do with a man being beaten to death by police officers for no apparent reason. But in the America of 2023, it is well-nigh impossible to view crimes of this magnitude without considering the identity of the perpetrator and that of the victims. Indeed, identity is invariably the first thing one looks for in high-profile crimes of this nature and often determines the amount of media coverage; if the identities of perpetrator and victim do not support the desired narrative, coverage is less as a result and stories fall quickly to the wayside, as we saw in the 2021 mass shooting at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado after a killer who slaughtered ten people, first identified as white, turned out to be a 21-year-old Syrian immigrant with severe mental illness, a far cry from the beer-swilling, pickup-truck-owning Trump supporter that features so prominently in the fantasies of our progressive elites. Note also how much less attention anti-Asian hate crimes have received once it became clear that most of the perpetrators were young black men.

Forgive my cynical tone. I realise we are talking about the violent deaths of innocent men and women; but the cynicism of America’s misnamed liberal elites – they are elite but very far removed from being liberal – is contagious, always calculating, as they are, the identitarian or racial calculus of such incidents in order to advance their divisive narratives. What happened in Memphis on January 7 will compel those cynical elites to recalibrate their usual responses to such incidents.


For the late Mr Nichols was black, as were the five officers charged with his murder, challenging those who would characterise events as yet another example of systemic racism and white supremacist cops. Watching footage of his brutalisation reminded me that certain images once seen, cannot be unseen. One must be thankful that the riots that were expected in Memphis and other cities did not break out after police released that footage last Friday. I like to think that protests remained peaceful because those protesting honored the pleas of Nichols’ grief-stricken mother who urged protesters to refrain from ‘burning up cities, tearing up our streets, because that’s not what my son stood for’. One can but hope that the relative placidity of protesters was not influenced by the racial identities of Nichols’ tormentors. 

The officers whose blows and kicks led to Tyre Nichols’s death were members of a task force known by the acronym Scorpion, which stands for Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighbourhoods, which has since been disbanded. Whatever the wisdom of naming a unit designed to restore peace in ‘high crime hotspots’ after a predatory arachnid, it seems Scorpion was a creature of necessity in a city that witnessed 346 homicides in 2021.

Nothing can excuse the savagery to which Nichols was subjected; but at a time when police morale has hit rock bottom in many jurisdictions and voicing anti-police rhetoric is seen as enlightened; when older and more experienced officers have been leaving in their droves and police departments all over the United States are lowering standards and offering hefty hiring bonuses in order to attract recruits; and when every interaction between law enforcement and the public is seen through an identitarian lens, is it any wonder that policing, most especially in our crime-ridden urban areas, is in crisis?

It is probably wishful thinking to suppose that the sight of five black men kicking and pummelling a fellow black man to the point of death will help illuminate the depravity to which all men and women are susceptible, regardless of identity or differences in skin colour. Already there are indications that considerations of race will play a significant role in the days to come and will be used, yet again, to advance agendas and score political points. Only when my fellow Americans stop seeing race and racism under every bed will this destructive nonsense come to an end.

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Bernard Carpenter
Bernard Carpenter
Bernard Carpenter is a semi-retired history teacher.

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