On the weekend celebrating the 60th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, an iconic high point in the civil rights movement, we were tragically reminded that explicit racism persists in America.
On Saturday, a man (who will not be named in this article) shot and killed three black people in Jacksonville, Florida.
Early on August 26, the gunman reportedly entered Edward Waters University, a historically black college, wearing a bulletproof vest, mask, and gloves. When campus security approached him due to suspicious behavior, he fled and drove down the street to a Dollar General. There, he shot and killed three people and then himself.
Police found a suicide note, a will, and three manifestos by the shooter, where he outlined a hateful anti-black ideology, which the police believe to be the motive of this crime.
Some have tried to blame this incident on the man’s history of mental illness. I’m sorry, but I will not take that route. Thousands of people are struggling with mental health issues in this country, and the vast majority do not kill people.
This man held an evil and irrational ideology. While we don’t know the specifics of the manifesto or his exact views, we know he decided to act on his tribalistic beliefs by taking innocent lives. His actions should not be blamed on anything or anyone other than him and the decisions he chose.
How this story has been covered by the press and discussed on social media has been frustrating.
While many of us (rightfully) recognize that racism is the root of the problem, many who have called out this man’s issue are trying to combat tribalism with tribalism: Instead of blaming this man, who has terrible views and a blatant disregard for human life, they are trying to blame all people who share characteristics with him.
Some claim that all white people are to blame.
Or all gun owners are to blame.
Or all Republicans are to blame.
People have even blamed Ron DeSantis, Florida’s governor, for the incident. At the vigil for the shooting victims, he was booed and heckled as if he was the one who pulled the trigger.
Every day, people of all races commit terrible crimes in this country. Yes, even people who share your skin color. I would bet no one would want to be blamed for those people’s actions, right?
The same logic should be applied here to the Jacksonville situation. The reality is that this shooter is the only one to blame for his choices. He decided to accept a racist ideology. He chose to abuse his right to a firearm and use it to take innocent lives instead of for self-defense.
By blaming his decisions on others, not only is he stripped of his responsibility and agency over his mind, thoughts, and actions, but people further the spread of blind tribalism.
Tribalism is what caused this tragedy. It is not the solution.