Robert Aaron Long confessed to shooting eight people in the Atlanta area on Tuesday. Captain Jay Baker, spokesperson for the Cherokee County sheriff’s office, said he had a “really bad day.” Is this how we now describe white people committing mass shootings?
What Capt. Baker actually said
In this space, I evaluate people’s actual words and word choices. So let’s get a look at what Captain Baker actually said at the press conference, in full context.
Reporter: You stated that, so from the suspect was perhaps upset at these locations for allowing him to have an outlet for his addiction [to sex workers]. Can you elaborate on that?
Capt. Baker: Yeah. Let me go into a little bit of detail. So the suspect did take responsibility for the shootings. He said that early on once we began the interviews with him. He claims that these, and as the chief said, this is still early, but he does claim that it was not racially motivated. He apparently has an issue, what he considers sex addiction and sees these locations as something that allows him to go to these places, and it’s a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate. Like I said, it’s still early on, but those were comments that he made. . . .
Reporter: Sheriff, did you have a sense that he understood the gravity of what he did?
Capt. Baker: When I spoke to the investigators, they interviewed him this morning and they got that impression, that, yes, he understood the gravity of it. And he was pretty much fed up and kind of at the end of his rope. And yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did.
Who’s racist in this story?
Since nearly all of the people shot were Asian, there are plenty of questions about racism here.
First, was the shooter Long racist? He says his violence was not directed based on race.
Of course, what we have here is a person who feels his own problems with sex addiction justify murdering people. If you can shoot a bunch of people because of your own problems, you clearly don’t see those people as full human beings. Long shot those people because he doesn’t see Asian sex workers as human. That’s pretty clearly racist.
Was Captain Baker racist?
You do have to wonder whether he would have said the shooter “had a bad day” if a Black man had shot up a school, or a Hispanic man had shot up a church full of white people.
Describing a white person who killed a bunch of Asians with the words “yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did” demonstrates a breathtaking level of racial insensitivity.
It demonstrates a strong desire to understand, and excuse, a racist hate crime based on the subject’s momentary mental state.
That’s a different kind of racism — not violent, but still part of the matrix of beliefs that in the wake of a racist assault, we need to concentrate early on understanding the motivations of white people who commit violence.
While the violence that has occurred at protests by Black people against police bias is orders of magnitude less horrific than this mass shooting, police spend very little time on the motivations of the protestors and far more energy on the crimes they believe have been committed. The implication is, Black people commit crimes, while violent white people have mental problems.
If you’re looking for another illustration of racism in police attitudes, you just got a very high profile example.