By Kathleen Strykowsky
One important component in the battle to reduce intentional mass shootings is to examine the motivations of the shooters. Most mass shooters are white men, and school shooters are young white men and boys. Many times we hear that they have been bullied during their lives and are striking back at their oppressors. Bullying is a big problem, especially in high school as teenagers are asserting their dominance over anyone perceived as weaker. Parents, school teachers, and counselors should be vigilant in ensuring that students can feel safe in school and around other teens.
But the component that is often overlooked is that the most common victims of bullying tend to be girls, LGTBQ students, minorities, and un-athletic/overweight/different from the average students, NOT white males. Yet white male students who are bullied are the ONLY ones that retaliate through violence. This can be attributed to “white privilege” and male expectations. Our society trains young white males to feel as if they are at the top of the “food chain”. They expect to succeed and be dominant. When they meet obstacles and disappointments, when girls turn down their advances, or they don’t make the team or graduate or get into college, they do not know how to deal with adversity. If they have access to weapons they can choose to fight back through violence that can be certain to overwhelm bullies and everyone that they perceive as causing their own failures.
One step that we can take as a society is to teach our children how to deal with adversity. High schools need to have “Life Lessons” classes that deal not only with college and job applications and interviews, financial education, auto and home maintenance, but also social skills to role play and learn how to deal with set-backs, disappointments, being told “NO” and accepting the decision. Learning to deal with being rejected or passed over is a crucial life skill. We teach our very young children that they are all “winners” who deserve a trophy, and that they can succeed at anything. We MUST ALSO explain that things will not ALWAYS go their way, and that they CAN survive and adapt, without blaming others.