The tragedy that struck the town of Winthrop on a quiet Saturday afternoon represents a confluence of everything that is wrong in America today.
The deranged, 28 year-old white gunman who shot two Black persons multiple times in cold blood on a residential sidewalk on an early-summer afternoon was motivated solely by one thing and one thing alone — racial hatred.
He came across others on that same sidewalk who were white, but he did not threaten them. He saved his wrath — and his bullets — for two Black persons, 68 year-old Dave Green and 60 year-old Ramona Cooper, who were not connected to each other, but who only shared the same fate of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Racial animosity is nothing new in America, but incidents of race-based hate crimes have been on the upswing in recent years, not only as to persons of color, but also against the Asian, Latino, Muslim, and Jewish communities.
Fueling the increase in race-based violence is the easy accessibility to military-grade weaponry that is becoming omnipresent in our country, where there are almost as many guns as people. The Winthrop shooter had obtained a license to carry a firearm from another police department and was armed with multiple weapons, providing him with the firepower to carry out his murderous spree.
Social media is playing a huge role in the radicalization of white men such as the Winthrop shooter. Social media has opened the doorway to the ideology of white supremacist groups for disgruntled and mentally-unstable individuals. Although the shooter reportedly had a Ph.D and was married, neighbors described behavior that was not normal for a 28 year-old man.
Finally, the economic dislocation being caused by the huge degree of income inequality in our country has left many people in a state of despair, which manifests itself either in self-destructive drug abuse or socially-destructive acts of violence.
None of this is meant to excuse hateful behavior — but it does provide an explanation for what is going wrong in America today. The greatest threat to the safety of every American exists within our own country from white supremacist groups and individuals. Whether our nation is capable of facing up to the threat of these domestic terrorists will determine the fate of our democracy and our way of life.