Following the church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, George Ciccariello-Maher, a politics and global studies professor known for his controversial public comments on the structure of race in society, cited “whiteness” as a contributing factor to mass shootings in an interview with Democracy Now! on Nov. 6.
Ciccariello-Maher, who is currently suspended from Drexel’s campus after his prior remarks on “white victimization” amid the Las Vegas massacre caused the university to receive death threats, explained how he believes the Texas shooting was yet another manifestation of white “entitlement” in society.
“Whiteness is never seen as a cause, in and of itself, of these kinds of massacres, of other forms of violence, despite the fact that whiteness is a structure of privilege and it’s a structure of power — and a structure that, when it feels threatened, you know, lashes out,” Ciccariello-Maher told Democracy Now!
Certain institutions serve as breeding grounds for violent behavior and our current institutional apparatus trains people into violence, he said during the interview, explaining how this model connects to the recent shooting.
“We’ve got someone who, in this case, apparently, was trained … to engage in violence abroad. And yet we act surprised when these people have breaks, when they fall into some kind of crisis, when they find maybe feelings of entitlement [or are] frustrated, that they then resort to violence,” he said.
He said members of society need to closely scrutinize our societal structure and question the injustices of the current system.
“We need to think very deeply, I think, about the structural role of what’s going in the society,” he said, while posing specific questions that he felt needed to be asked.
“I think we’re seeing these kinds of atrocities occurring, and we need to be really asking not only “What can we do?” … but we also can’t lose sight of these broader questions, and ask, ‘What is going on in our society today?’” he continued.
He said that the current presidential administration has fostered this distorted societal paradigm.
“Trump makes hay out of the fact that white men, in particular, feel as though they’re the victims of this society, despite being in absolute control of it,” he said. “And this is something that is powerfully dangerous.”
This is why society is experiencing an increase in violent attacks and occasions of mass violence such as the Texas shooting, he explained.
The shooting in Sutherland Springs on Nov. 5 was one of the deadliest mass shootings in Texas state history. Gunman Devin Patrick Kelley — a white male who formerly served in the U.S. Air Force — opened fire on worshippers at the First Baptist Church, killing 26 and wounding 20.
Yet, Maher explained how for the most part, the media failed to report on his race, despite vast coverage of the tragedy.
“The far right, of course, jumps on any violence by people of color — and yet, you know, doesn’t want to talk about the real deep structures of white supremacy in our society,” he said.
“We need to think much, much harder about what’s going on in our society,” Maher said.
Drexel placed Ciccariello-Maher on administrative leave in early October, after he received backlash for his tweets, which led to an apparent public safety concern. He currently teaches his classes online.