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After the Jacksonville Shooting, We Need to Talk About White Male Rage

Less than 24 hours after a white male went on a killing spree and then killed himself after losing a tournament, the media is struggling to find a narrative that can explain what happened without discussing the fact that yet another white male went on a killing spree. The Washington Post's take is particularly galling: Jacksonville shooting suspect: A serious player in the high-pressure, big-money world of competitive gaming

The shooting has delivered a blow to the tightknit Madden community just as the game’s popularity as a spectator sport — and the stakes involved — rise in the esport universe.

“This is a competitive game,” Matthew Lee, a Madden gamer who was scheduled to attend Sunday’s event but did not end up making the trip, told The Washington Post late Sunday. “Everybody knows each other. When things get heated, they do get heated, everybody trash talks at events. But when the cards are down, this is a family.”

The article focuses on how much pressure the players are under. Lots and lots of pressure. My goodness, they're under so much pressure!

But esports also present their own unique form of overwhelming pressure.

“There is no other sport in the world in which one day you can be a teenager playing a game by yourself, and the next day, because someone scouted you from your online account, you’re thrown onto a stage for millions to criticize,” ESPN esports reporter Tyler Erzberger wrote in a piece on the pervasiveness of mental health issues in the esports community published Friday, before the shooting. “There’s little to no assimilation period. There’s no road map for how to deal with the criticism. There’s just you, on the stage with four teammates, facing down the biggest moment of your life with no lifeline.”

The unspoken insinuation here is that, naturally, it's to be expected that some of these kids are going to snap. Because they're under so much pressure and they're kids. Except the killer was 24-years-old, far from being a kid, and that's fucking bullshit. He was under a lot of pressure? So what? So is everyone else. The transsexual kid being beaten up every day in school is under a lot of pressure. The Latino mother wondering when her daughter will be returned to her by the government is under a lot of pressure. The Muslim who keeps having "Die Terrorist!" spray painted on his house is under a lot of pressure. None of them were prepared for that pressure, either, and they don't go on killing sprees.

If you want to understand pressure, try growing up in poverty in the inner city surrounded by gang violence, drugs, and a police force that's eager to beat you to a bloody pulp, throw you in jail for decades, murder you for "resisting arrest", or a combination of all three. I didn't grow up that way so I don't claim to even slightly understand that kind of pressure. But I also don't see too many articles in the Washington Post lamenting how tough it is for black kids to handle all the pressure they're under when they pull out a gun and shoot someone.

This is how white male supremacy works in America. No matter how many white men go on killing sprees because they didn't get what they wanted (a woman's attention, popularity in school, a white America), we never discuss the problem of white male rage. Every white killer is a separate and unique "isolated incident," disconnected from any larger pattern. This is like declaring every tree in a forest to exist in singular solitude and the forest itself to be invisible. Worse, anyone pointing out the obvious existence of the forest is treated as a heretic by polite society because it's just rude to ruffle the leaves of all the trees. They're extremely fragile and cannot handle any kind of criticism. After all, you never know what might set another one of them off on a completely isolated killing spree. They're just under so much pressure these days!

But that's the result of creating a society that tells exactly one group, white men, that the universe is theirs to command and control; that everything is theirs for the taking. When white men don't get what they want, how they want, the way they want it, they lash out in a mindless rage at anyone and everyone they blame for denying them what they feel entitled to. Maybe if we stopped coddling them, they'd stop being so fucking fragile. And then maybe, just maybe, they'd stop killing so many of us in petulant rages when they don't get their way.

The sooner we start talking about the problem instead of finding every excuse imaginable to avoid discussing white male rage, the better off the world will be.