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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: March 8, 2001
Latest update: March 11, 2001

On "School Shootings and White Denial"

  • Someone finally had the courage to say it. by Valencia Ross, Criminology class.
  • Nothing like that could ever happen in our lily white town! by Carla Shaw, Moot Court class.
  • Trust is a part of it all. by by Ana Contreras, Peace and Conflict class.
  • Listening and respecting our youth in good faith! by Tonya Crenshaw, Criminology, Moot Court, and Peace and Conflict classes.
  • Personal Experience with White Denial by Anita Johnson. Link added March 24, 2001.

    Someone finally had the courage to say it.

    On Thrusday, March 8, 2001, Valencia Ross wrote:

    "School Shootings and White Denial" by Tim Wise was very interesting. I am surprised that someone has actually stepped up to the plate and admitted that it is not always the minority groups committing the crimes, and that all racial groups are capable of doing these very dangerous things. This article has even taught me a few things because I, too, was not aware of those statistics that Wise spoke about. Its unfortunate that when we speak of drug dealers and teens carrying guns that we seem to point the finger at Afro-Americans and Hispanics.

    I agree with Wise it's the media's fault to a certain extent, because this is where people get most of their information. It's true that people are in denial, but its not just the White people. People only want to believe what they want to, so in turn then tend to block and displace a lot of stuff from their memory. Especially parents, they don't want to think that their child is having problems or doing things wrong because this will make them look like they are not doing their job. We must start being responsible for our child and start paying attention. At times it is hard to notice warning signs, so there has to be something else that we can do.

    In general I really appreciated the article because it showed that at least one person has noticed that not all killings happen in the hood or in urban areas and that there is nowhere to run. There is violence everywhere, but other areas have different types of violence.

    On Thursday, March 8, 2001, jeanne responded:

    Thourghtful comment, Valencia. I like particularly your noting that warning signs are hard to see sometimes. Truth is, in an attempt to understand and predict, we include such general warning signs they'd fit almost anyone. And it's not a particular factor - it's the social fact, as Durkheim would say, that dictates and constrains our behavior.

    You're right. As you watch China grow up, you're going to see many signs, most of which will be too general to predict effectively what she's going to do. So what can we do? You put it well when you said: "We must start being responsible for our child and start paying attention." Yes, paying attention. Listening in good faith. Using our own expertise to try to understand.

    Nothing like that could ever happen in our lily white town!

    On Thursday, March 8, 2001, Carla Shaw wrote:

    Hello, Jeanne!

    Tonight in Moot Court, Pat passed out copies of the article "School Shootingss and White Denial," by Tim Wise, and I couldn't put the darned thing down! Tim Wise hits the nail on the head with this article! The reaction is always, "Oh, no! Nothing like that could ever happen in our lily white town!" When something like this happens in those "lily white towns" it is always a total shock! "How could this happen here?!" But if it were to happen in the inner city, it would be a totally different response ... "Well, that is what is expected in those types of neighborhoods." But those extreme acts of violence and terrorism are not happening in the inner cities! At least not on that scale.

    Pat and I found that all of the shooters had a common history. "They were the 'OTHER'!" The outcast, the less thans. In predominantly white schools, the hierarchy of the students is amazingly prominent and real! From the "Most popular" to the "Jocks" to the "Nerds" as if those students who don't fit into any of the categories, were "Nothing," and the students who are in the "IN" crowd don't let them forget it.

    This type of stratification can be drastic for teenagers who are egotistic and have weak ties to a society or group. At this time in their lives, teenagers are at an awkward stage and have the need to feel as if they fit in somewhere. It seems to me that in these situations, it was too much for them.

    This situation is very sad and devastating regardless of where the school is located (suburb or inner city), and we as parents need to find a way to instill in our children that they are "Someone" regardless of what the other children say or think and try our best to build their self esteem enough to where the "sticks and stones" won't hurt them.

    Have a blessed day, and get well soon!

    Carla Shaw

    On Thursday, March 8, 2001, jeanne responded:

    See also Marvin Berlowitz' comments from the PEC list.
    Carla, I'm glad Ian Harris sent us the link for the Tim Wise article. I agree with Betty Reardon, who responded later on the PEC list that there is more than race involved. Of course, there is. But Tim Wise brought into the open our terrible need to deny, and our refusal to listen in good faith. I am particularly pleased at how many of you are translating this into our need to learn to respect each other and our children.

    I agree that there are underlying issues of stratification, and that they are particularly harmful during adolescence when the kids are playing musical chairs with status. Our institutions, including the schools (and universities) are so concerned with enforcing rules and stratifying the students that they have ceased to monitor the respect due each of our children.

    I like your suggestion that we must instill in each of our children that they are "Someone." Yes, a good definition of respect, and one that might take some of the sting out the stratification that could best be accomplished in a school that offered many alternative activities, so that each could excel, and discover a safe and secure identity.

    love and peace, jeanne

    "Trust is a part of it all."

    On Friday, March 10, 2001, Ana Contreras wrote:

    Hi Jeanne,

    Thursday's class discussion was very interesting. It started with child violence and ended up with young girls having babies at an early age. I believe a lot of violence that goes on with children doesn't only have to be reflected on adults, but it has a lot to do with outside factors. Movies, friends, games, gangs, drugs, etc. I noticed from the handouts that the majority of kids have dysfunctional families, which might have contributed to their actions.

    Bobby, I believe that's her name, made a couple of comments that I need to disagree with. She couldn't understand how mothers weren't able to notice when their daughters were pregnant. She used her daughter for an example. Bobby had to know everytime her daughter was on her menstrual cycle, starting from the first day. She said her daughter had to show her proof. Bobby washed her clothes to make sure her daughter wasn't lying. If her daughter was a couple of days late on her period, Bobby wanted to know why. I think that was too much. If my mother would do that to me I would freak out and think she was crazy. Some girls can hide their pregnancy so well, which might have been Bobby's concern, but trust needs to be applied so crazy thoughts won't come into mind. I don't think monitoring your daughter's menstrual cycle will help much because girls will find a way to do things regardless of their mother looking over them all the time.

    Like that saying goes, "We Need to Stop the Violence and Increase the Peace."

    Ana C. Contreras
    Peace and Conflict/ Soc 395
    TTH 2:30-3:45PM

    On Friday March 10, 2001, jeanne responded:

    Well thought out comments, Ana. I understand Betty's concern. Parents are being sued for the conduct of their children, and the dominant discourse insists that parents are responsible. That would account for Betty's vigilance. But I think you make an excellent point when you suggest that trust is a part of it all.

    If one takes the position that one must get evidence that one's child is not lying, then one assumes an adversarial position with respect to the child. That position will make mutuality of respect between parent and child harder to establish. There are, of course, no perfect answers. Social facts are normative patterns, not simple data. The parent's vigilance, the trust that exists between parent and child, the influence of the peer group, all are factors that work interdependently to produce the ultimate results.

    love and peace, jeanne

    Listening and respecting our youth in good faith!

    On Sunday, March 11, 2001, Tonya Crenshaw wrote:

    Hi-Jeanne. I am writing you in regards to the Santana school shooting. This really hurt my heart. I am hurting for the famillies' loss, but I am also hurting for the poor boy that did the shooting. There were many warning signs for family as well as friends, but no one listened, or shall I say that no one cared. Maybe no one cared because they felt that he was too young to have anything worthwhile to say. Or maybe it was the way he looked. Was it because he was a nerd? Puny? Or just a nobody in the eyes of the world? When are we going to value our youth and their opinions? Does anybody really care until something like this happens? I listen to everything my 11 year old says and I take it to heart. Maybe I listen too much, but at least I listen!

    Thanks, Tonya

    On Sunday, March 11, 2001, jeanne responded:

    Hi, Tonya. I'm glad that you're recovering from your accident. Good to hear from you again.

    I think you've made an important point in relating the good faith listening to caring. Caring, like success, has many definitions influenced by social facts - our normative expectations for what those words mean. We think of success as financial success. We think of caring as a show of solidarity in which we can brag about each other. As you point out here, caring means listening in good faith and using all our skills and training to try to understand. We may not agree with the young person's despair, but we need to try to hear it, and to try to understand where that despair is coming from, for to the young person, it is looms over his/her reality, especially during the adolescent years of identity formation. Keep listening to your 11-year-old!

    love and peace, jeanne

    Personal Experience with White Denial.

    On Tuesday, March 13, Anita Johnson wrote:

    Hi, jeanne. it's me again, Anita, i'm writing in regards to the artice i just read. School shooting and white denial. jeanne, i've worked with juvenile delinquents for about five years now. four years in probation schools and one year in juvenile hall as a detention service officer. i tell you, that writer was telling the truth. He gave some stats on the use of durgs among the teenagers, and from my experience, he is very accurate.

    it is really alarming the types of crimes the white children commit as opposed to the crimes blacks and hispanic kids commit. i have one girl in my unit who was arrested for making a murder for hire web page on her computer and accepting money from potential clients. when the police arrested her, she was well equipped to perform her duty with her father's gun collection. good thing a concerned woman turned her in. another kid beat her grandmother in the head with a large flashlight, and the grandmother is now in a coma indefinitely. both are white and both confessed to me that they were [using] heroin and meth.

    there is another kid 8 years old who found his mother's boyfriend's gun, and took it to school and threatened to kill the other kids if they told. this was on the news, jeanne. this hurt me to my heart. this kid was black, so i don't believe that this is just a white thing. yes, it is more prevalent in the white communities. this kid was hauled in so fast he didn't get a chance to do anything. another girl, black, says she has been threatening people most of her life. she never thought it would land her in jail. well, in our community they lock them up just for the threat, and that is good.

    i'm trying not to be so long winded. this subject touches me very close. the kids i deal with have problems. i'm not being funny but the white children and the bi-racial children (black and white) come in messed up because of

    jeanne's comment: Anita, be careful when you use the word "because" in any academic discourse. There are so many factors involved, both in heredity and environment, that it is very hard for us to one precisely what "causes" what. You can say "one explanatory factor is their relationship with their parents." As long as you stick to "one possible explanation" you're safe.

    what they feel for their parents.

    jeanne, i hope i didn't go too far off track.
    have a good evening

    On Saturday, March 24, 2001, jeanne responded:

    Nicely told story, Anita. You made me feel as though I were there with you. And the world you're describing is one I've never experienced. I would also like to compliment you on your usage of vocabulary. I linked "prevalent" to the dictionary.

    love and peace, jeanne