Tale of three shootings: Aurora, Sikh temple, Oikos–how it plays when victims are people of color


On Twitter, I saw pictures of the national day of solidarity with Sikhs on Wednesday night, just days after the temple shooting in Wisconsin.

The best sources? Once again, it was the social networks, Twitter and Facebook. I didn’t see any mention of it anywhere in the mainstream media.

There was a lot about beach volleyball, though.

I wrote about the temple shooting on the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund blog earlier this week.

I was confounded not just by our national ignorance of Sikhs, but by our national indifference toward that cultural scab known as Neo-Nazi hate rock.

Despite the temple shooter’s suicide, I thought there would be continuing coverage for at least a few weeks, as we cycle through the mourning period, the funerals and political rhetoric. Maybe we’d see more exposure of the hate lyrics in rock music, a kind of white man’s lament, white rap in 4/4.

Perhaps, even a national teach-in on Sikhism?

I was dreaming.

Within days, the temple story has all but evaporated. What’s left to report, right? Just another shooting in America. It’s not, but you can’t tell that from the coverage.

We shouldn’t be surprised. Remember Oikos? It’s back to being just some yogurt brand, not the name of a vocational school where a gunman killed seven in Oakland, California, earlier this year.

What happened? When the victims are minorities, and not part of the mainstream, the spot news is covered, of course. That’s the life blood of news. But the mass interest wanes quickly, and beyond Day Two, the story has no “legs.” The will and the interest don’t seem to be there. Not even during a slow news period.

The shootings in Aurora did last a bit longer in the news. But maybe that’s because perp James Holmes linked his rage to the premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises,” the hot Batman movie of the summer, and more people could relate to the horror of a gunman in such a public venue. Everyone could have been a victim there, more than they would have been praying at a Sikh temple or enrolling in a nursing course among immigrants at Oikos.

The victims were also mostly white in Aurora, and that may have extended the story for a few days more. But even Aurora has failed to stay in the spotlight.

That’s because the people who could do something about it but don’t, or won’t, would rather the stories disappear.

Remember President Obama’s tepid statements from the hospital on the Sunday after the Colorado theatre shooting? The president had just visited with victims’ families. Obama said he “tried to assure them that although the perpetrator of this evil act has received a lot of attention over the last couple of days, that attention will fade away.”

It was somewhat prophetic. Indeed, even with Aurora, attention has faded. It’s not just the Sikh temple or Oikos.

And it’s more than just NRA voodoo.

America just doesn’t like to talk about the things that need to be talked about when it comes to gun violence. Talking guns is as polarizing as it gets in politics. And like other tough issues, we prefer to kick the can down the road.

We put it off until the next mass shooting. And, unfortunately, there will be a next one. And a next one after that.

Minorities certainly have a right to feel slighted over the coverage of the temple shooting and Oikos. Unlike Aurora, the temple shooting didn’t even warrant a presidential visit. And it was in Wisconsin, a battleground state.

It was probably seen as not worth the political risk. There’s that NRA voodoo again.

In America, as it has been for some time, guns win, all the time.

Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
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The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.
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