Irrespective of whatever is ethnic identity of any shooter leading to violence and/or murders, how can approach towards him be decided by his religion, race, colour or any ethnic as well as national factor? A crime remains a crime. Sadly, double-standards of this nature still prevail. If Salvador Rolando Ramos was an Arab, a Muslim and/or a Black, the rage against United States’ gun laws would have hardly prevailed. He would have been instantly labelled as a terrorist and American media would have probably gone overboard in linking his as well as his family’s “links” with terrorism. Criticism and anger voiced against gun laws would have been replaced by his and community being blamed aggressively for Texas-shooting.
Ramos stormed into Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on May 24, 2022, murdering 19 students and two teachers. At least 17 were wounded. Earlier in the day, he had shot his grandmother, severely injuring her. While the 18-year-old Ramos has not been and cannot be spared of charges holding him responsible for Texas shootings, what stands out markedly is nature of “reports” about him. A few points from these include his “disturbed” home life, his having to leave his mother’s house and live with his grandparents, his being bullied at school for his speech problem, his being a school dropout, his job as a night manager and so forth. In addition, substantial attention has been paid to his mother and grandfather not being aware of his purchase of weapons. His mother’s emphasis on that her son was “not a monster” though he could be “aggressive,” has also been taken note of.
Each of these points is suggestive of there apparently being an underlying sympathy-wave for Ramos drawing attention to circumstances which perhaps forced the teenager to this stage. A few hard facts cannot be ignored in this approach as something seems missing here. How often is background of criminals paid attention, immediately following violent, illegal activities they indulge in? Besides, there is nothing strange about boys as well as girls of this age working odd hours and not living with their parents in the West. It is also fairly normal for these to entertain differences with others on even trivial matters. But this does not justify violent and murderous behaviour however tough may be phase of adolescence a teenager normally goes through.
During a news conference on May 25 at Robb Elementary School, Texas Governor Greg Abbot said that shooter (Ramos) had a “mental health challenge.” He said, “We as a state, we as a society, need to do a better job with mental health.” Responding to his comment, Annette Naish expressed through a letter published on May 31 in Texas newspaper (Austin American-Statesman, “Our governor says this crime (is) against humanity because we have people who are mentally ill. If that’s true, we must have the highest rate of mental illness in the world.”
Clearly, speculations in American media, among politicians and people in general have not spared “mental health” in their country as a probable cause leading to “mass shooting” incidents the country. Within a week after the Uvalde mass shooting, 17 incidents have taken place in various parts of US, according to Gun Violence Archive, a website which tracks shooting in the country in which four or people (excluding the shooter) have been shot, injured or killed. United States’ Memorial Day Weekend was marked by around 14 mass shootings across the country in which at least nine were killed and more than 60 injured, according to Gun Violence Archive.
Less than a fortnight before Uvalde-shooting, hate-crime was witnessed when a white gunman killed 10 Black shoppers and workers at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York on May 14.
Voices have also been raised against the country’s gun laws, prospects of needed action being taken against which are remote. Besides, tacit references have been made to probable role of parenting, drug problems and so forth. In case of Ramos, specific attention has been made to his having no criminal background. Please note the subtle, apparently deliberate, caution having been exercised in trying not to paint his “negative” image as a “criminal”.
If Ramos was an Arab, a Black, a Muslim, a Hindu or a Sikh, in all probability, attempt to trace factors responsible for his shootings would not have been made. He would have probably been instantly described as a terrorist. It may be recalled, 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed was arrested on September 14, 2015 at MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas. The disassembled digital clock he had brought to school was suspected to be a bomb. He was also suspended from the school. The young child was punished merely on ground of suspicion. He was a Black Muslim. Of course, later, he was complimented and received support from the then President Barack Obama and others.
Yes, mass shooting indulged in by anyone is condemnable and punishable. In case of Uvalde-Texas shooting, there is no doubt about who has indulged in it and who have been targeted, the majority killed being young, little kids. Ramos has been called a gunman and a shooter in general but not a murderer or a terrorist. Accusations being levied against policemen for delay in charging into the Texas school to check Ramos also demand deliberation. The issue is not the cause of their delay but whether they would have faced similar criticism if gunman was a Black, a Muslim, an Arab or someone who would have been instantly labelled as terrorist!
Nilofar Suhrawardy is a senior journalist and writer with specialization in communication studies and nuclear diplomacy. She has come out with several books. These include:— Modi’s Victory, A Lesson for the Congress…? (2019); Arab Spring, Not Just a Mirage! (2019), Image and Substance, Modi’s First Year in Office (2015) and Ayodhya Without the Communal Stamp, In the Name of Indian Secularism (2006).
Originally published in Mainstream Weekly