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    #TakeAKnee


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    Over the past several days, stories about the Las Vegas Strip shooting on October 1 and the ongoing #TakeAKnee protest have rightfully dominated headlines and conversations across the nation. There is little doubt that at least two of the chronic problems underlying both—gun violence in the U.S. and racial injustice—go back far beyond these more recent events.

    Bernice King, an American minister who is the youngest child of the late great civil rights leaders Martin Luther King, Jr., and Coretta Scott King, wrote the tweet that is featured in its entirety on our cover. She reminds that her father and his colleagues got down on one knee in response to racial injustice decades ago. Whether the individual doing so uses the time for prayer, contemplation, protest or all three, the visual image is a peaceful yet powerful one, and especially when large groups are participating simultaneously.

    Politicians, war veterans, NFL players and other sports professionals—including out lesbian soccer star Megan Rapinoe—have all heeded the call to #TakeAKnee in solidarity with now-free agent football quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who until March 3 of this year was under contract with the San Francisco 49ers. While President Trump and others have criticized these actions, we support the view of John Middlemas and his family. Underneath a photo of Middlemas kneeling, which went viral upon its release to the public in September, was the text, “My grandpa is a 97-year-old WWII vet & Missouri farmer who wanted to join (with) those who #TakeAKnee: ‘those kids have every right to protest.’” This was written by Brennan Gilmore.

    There may even be a direct connection between racial injustice and the Las Vegas massacre, along with other mass shootings in America. Eric Madfis, a Professor in the Social Work department of the University of Washington, Tacoma, believes that white entitlement, middle-class instability and downward mobility in the post-industrial economy converge in mass murderers within the U.S. In a paper recently published in the journal Men and Masculinities, he writes, referring to mass murderers specifically, that “69.9 percent of American mass killers are non-Hispanic whites, while non-Hispanic whites make up only 63.7 percent of the U.S. population. This white disproportionately (albeit fairly close to proportionality) is exclusive to this type of killer.”

    He later mentions, “White men are not systematically disenfranchised, and so they have not built up the requisite psychological and emotional mechanisms for dealing with loss.”

    Madfis’ analysis concludes, in his words, that “among many mass killers, the triple privileges of white heterosexual masculinity, which make subsequent life course losses more unexpected and thus more painfully shameful, ultimately buckle under the failures of downward mobility, and result in a final cumulative act of violence to stave off subordinated masculinity.”

    His paper remains controversial, and does not address other important factors previously associated by other researchers with mass murderers, not only in the U.S., but also globally. These may include biochemical factors (including those affected by long or short-term mind-altering drug abuse), family and social environment, as well as male-enacted violence in the entire primate lineage—not solely Homo sapiens. Regarding the latter, keep in mind that in most primate species, males for a variety of reasons disproportionately commit acts of violence such as mass murder, infanticide and rape. Parallels have been drawn with humans, suggesting genetic influences on behavior that should be possible for all to overcome. Nevertheless, Madfis’ theory is a thought-provoking one that is sure to generate additional research and debate.

    For now, we can only speculate what was going on in the mind of Stephen Paddock as he brutally took the lives of so many innocent victims who were just trying to enjoy themselves at a concert. The massacre in Las Vegas was not necessarily a racially-charged one; nearly all of the victims were Caucasian. As Madfis explains in his paper, however, issues tied to race may have played a role in Paddock’s mental state.

    If only Paddock and others before him—often consumed by self-hate, a hatred of others and obsessions with deadly weapons—had considered and taken to heart the timeless words of Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love … Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”