How views on women and race can lead to violence

Hello! I hope everyone had a great weekend. Mine was fun but exhausting. I watched a lot of soccer in anticipation of the World Cup and spent ten hours on Monday helping my friend install new laminate flooring in her condo. It was grueling work and I quickly realized my hands were created to make spring rolls, not do flooring.

Anyways, there were a lot of topics that I have wanted to write about in this week’s post, such as Asian happy hour, long Asian goodbyes, and Asian survival tips for the zombie apocalypse (hint: always carry your sword with you). But over the weekend I read a few headlines about a mass shooting in California.

A young man named Elliot Rodger killed six people, wounded 13 others and then killed himself. There has already been a lot written about this tragedy, so I won’t go into the details. To be fair, I don’t know anything about Elliot Rodger except for what I’ve recently read online—so that makes me about as expert and informed as a vegan who gives advice on eating steak.

But I think there are some important, even urgent, themes from this tragedy worth exploring—particularly how gender and race have appeared to play a large role in his motivations. This struck a chord with me because as a minority and a man, I experience both oppression and enjoy certain privileges at the same time. I even asked the Richard Sherman to help me rant about these issues, but he was busy winning a Superbowl. No big deal. Go Seahawks.

On women

Before Rodger’s planned attack, he posted a YouTube video explaining his motivations. His plan was to exact revenge for being rejected by women. “If I can’t have you, girls, I will destroy you,” he says.

I’ve previously written about the role men have to play in supporting women. But he larger issue at hand is how we as society view and value women. Women are not something one can have a right over. Even traditional weddings where the parents “give” the bride away seem antiquated.

Granted, Rodger’s twisted views on women may be extreme; most people simply don’t think like that. However, his views are rooted in a perspective that has generally been normalized and accepted by society. It’s become far too common to blame women who are rape survivors, shame women for being sexual while high-fiving men, and bully women in the workplace. We rationalize these behaviors by citing biological, physiological, psychological, emotional – the list goes on – differences between men and women. These explanations are cheap and distract from a larger cultural and worldview that rewards men for being men and degrades women.

On race

Rodger’s also directed his anger at men of color because he felt women preferred them over him. In his manifesto he writes: “How could an inferior, ugly black boy be able to get a white girl and not me? I am beautiful, and I am half white myself. I am descended from British aristocracy. He is descended from slaves. I deserve it more.”

Rodger’s mother was of Asian descent, yet he mostly identified as, and longed to be, White. “I am half White, half Asian, and this made me different from the normal fully-white kids that I was trying to fit in with. I envied the cool kids, and I wanted to be one of them.”

Again, his views on race fall on the extremes but are grounded socially accepted norms—the idea that minorities are the cause of society’s problems and the solution is to continue taking away the rights and privileges of minorities and people of color. For example, making it harder for people of color to vote, disproportionally punishing Black and Latino students, or forcing everyone to speak English.

The take away?

The combination of gender, race and oppression doesn’t necessarily lead someone to take the life of innocent people—these are the workings of a dark and evil person. However, they do contribute to situations that make it easier to devalue the worth of an individual or group. If men see women as a prize to be won and society treats minorities as a nuisance to be solved, it creates an environment where bullying, racism, prejudice, sexism can thrive; violence is the result.

There’s a lot more to these important issues that are worth unpacking, and no single post can do it all justice. This is why I strongly believe it’s important that we move beyond the silence and engage in meaningful and respectful conversations about prejudice, stereotypes and other forms of hatred and oppression. We have a shared responsibility to empower and support women, minorities and young people. Though it will take a lot of time and work, accomplishing this will feel like winning a Superbowl—maybe even better. So Mr. Sherman, whenever you have free time, I’m happy to go on a rant with you.

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