The horrific mass murder in Isla Vista that began Memorial Day weekend has pundits and armchair diagnosticians scrambling for an explanation. This time, we’ve finally seen misogyny and men’s sense of entitlement added to the usual suspects of guns and mental illness. And, rightfully so. The shooter’s deep hatred of women and investment in harmful notions of masculinity could not have been more clear.
But, we should also look at another important variable in this lethal equation: race.
While Elliot Rodger was clearly a misogynist, and a tremendous amount of feminist writing has dealt with his misogyny quite well; he was also a White Supremacist.
Let’s begin this conversation about his white supremacy by acknowledging that Elliot Rodger was multi-racial. He self-identified as half-White and half-Asian. However, he had internalized white supremacist notions that his White ancestry was somehow better and more beautiful than his Asian ancestry.
He believed that the fact that he was not completely white is what made him unattractive to women. Indeed, he even went so far as to claim his whiteness as what made him more deserving of white women’s attention than fully Asian men.
Elliot Rodger did not only direct his white supremacy inward; he relied on that racist ideology to target others.
First and foremost, Elliot Rodger was interested in killing White women. While he was unsuccessful at courting any women, he perceived White women to be the most desirable and, therefore, in his twisted mind, they were the most deserving of death.
But, his enemies were not only the White girls whom he felt constantly turned him down for dates and rejected him sexually. His rage was also towards all the men of color he felt those white girls chose 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… If this is actually true, if this ugly black filth was able to have sex with a blonde white girl at the age of thirteen while I’ve had to suffer virginity all my life, then this just proves how ridiculous the female gender is. They would give themselves to this filthy scum, but they reject ME? The injustice!”
“How could an ugly Asian attract the attention of a white girl, while a beautiful Eurasian like myself never had any attention from them?”
“How could an inferior Mexican guy be able to date a white blonde girl, while I was still suffering as a lonely virgin? I was ashamed to be in such an inferior position in front my father.”
To Rodger not only were White women the most desirable, but men of color were all ugly, inferior, and undeserving. In fact, the first 3 people that Rodger killed were all Asian men.
This was also not the first time that men targeting women harbored White Supremacist beliefs.
George Hannard, the shooter in the 1991 Luby’s Massacre, referred to women as “vipers” and passed over men at the diner to target women. Hannard had such a hard time hiding his overt racism that it caused him to be discharged from the Merchant Marines in 1989.
George Sodini, perpetrator of the Collier Township Shooting in 2009, targeted women in a fitness class. In the notes he left behind, he claims that “every black man should get a young white hoe to hone up on. Kinda a reverse indentured servitude kinda thing.” He also expressed his belief that young White women prefer Black men over White men – an issue that fueled his rage.
Elliot Rodger and those like him feel entitled to women’s bodies not only because they are men, but also because they believe that this thing we call whiteness makes them somehow deserving. If we want to understand how this happened, and how to prevent it in the future, we are going to have to confront not only misogyny but also the complex ways in which misogyny and white supremacy intersect.
For more on the issue of race in the UCSB killings check out these podcasts:
This piece was written by Cliff Leek and Michael Kimmel; a shortened version appeared at the NY Daily News.
Kennedy-Kollar, D., & Charles, C. A. (2012). Hegemonic Masculinity and Mass Murderers in the United States. Southwest Journal of Criminal Justice, 8(2).
Kimmel, M., & Leek, C. (2014). ‘There is a GunMAN on Campus’: Including Identity in Mass Shooting Discourse Gun Violence in Public Life: Paradigm.