How the Other Half Lives

On Monday, October 5th, every college student in the city of Philadelphia was tense.  An anonymous post on the shock website 4chan called for the continuation of the “Beta Rebellion” and threatened an “unidentified university” in the city at exactly 2:00 PM.  Most universities would not take this threat seriously; however, only nine days prior, a similar threat became all too real at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon – where a murder-suicide left nine students dead.  Thus many of us were apprehensive to go to classes, much less leave the safety of our own homes.

At around 1:00 PM, a friend of mine (a white, male student) walked two blocks to my house carrying a large duffle bag of dirty laundry to clean; his apartment building didn’t have washers or dryers; therefore, he asked to use mine.  On the 4-minute walk from his house to mine, he’d garnered a handful of fearful looks and street-crossings.  Upon arriving at my house, my friend recounted the experience to me, and we soon realized that people must have thought he could’ve been the poster of the original threat.  Similarly, talking the night before about the threat, my friends and I kept referring to the potential shooter as a “he,” and we all made the assumption that he would probably be white.

What does it say about our society that, when faced with the warning of a mass shooting or casualty, our fear naturally manifests itself into the form of a male – and a white male at that?  In many other situations, the assumed perpetrator is a person of color: the thief is black, the shooter is Latino, the terrorist is Arab – and yet, here, a white man was being looked at as if he could be the next mass shooter – as if he could be the killer.

Historically speaking, which members of society have been the perpetrators of the majority of mass killings?  Framing college shootings – or any other shootings – in this way provides an interesting notion to follow.  Contextually, it seems to be people on the cusp.  Power is something that is usually afforded to the most privileged elite of our societies; but what about those who should be powerful, and yet still are not respected?  Nazi-era Germany was fraught with this cusp mentality – a European superpower that was forced to lag behind the other nations after the fallout of World War I.  Belgian men, who were unable to find jobs and prestige in early 20th-century Europe, would go to work in the Congo – enslaving and eradicating the population.  Many of those who came to colonize America were indentured servants looking to start their lives over, which eventually led to the devastation and genocide of most native populations.

This notion of a “Beta Rebellion” is not new – the notion of the Beta: the second in power, craving to become the powerful Alpha.  These young, usually white, men  in modern day American society are so close to power and yet this toxic mix of not being seen as smart enough or attractive enough or powerful enough can have catastrophic effects.  People of color are too often blamed for crimes, when the real threat to many of us manifests itself in those with the “Beta Rebellion” complex ingrained into their psyche.  It is no wonder that people assumed that my friend could have been the shooter – he fit the historical description of a mass killer.


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