The problem with designating white male mass shooters as mentally ill is not the denigration of people with mental illness or that the characterization is itself wrong. 

These men are no doubt quite psychically ill, as are all white people who live in our settler, white supremacist societies. White supremacist societies produce psychic structures that make everyone ill, though differing processes and effects of racialization mean that those who are racialized as white are largely unaware of the illness they inhabit and that inhabits them, and they usually don’t identify or experience their racialization as white as a site of trauma, pain, or trouble, except when the promises of whiteness fail them. And even then they often fail to identify the actual source of their problem: a sick, settler capitalist society that largely doesn’t serve them.

The problem with narratives exploring the psychical illness of white mass shooters, as opposed to those designated with titles like “terrorists” (who are are almost never white, revealing the racializing and criminalizing overtones of such a term which is also often used overly broadly to apply to people merely exercising rights to non violent protest), is that nuanced and in depth investigations of subjectivity are frequently only accorded to white people in a colonial, white supremacist society.

In this context, even the mere consideration that a white mass murderer is a subject with an interiority becomes an affront because one of the primary functions of white supremacy is to deny the interiority and lived experiences of those who are not accorded the status of whiteness.

Understanding the framing of narratives of violence in this way, I see two obvious ways of disrupting white supremacy: 1), shutting down those who mobilize race – from the deployment of racial slurs to structures of storytelling – to dehumanize, objectify, and deny the subjectivity of those not accorded the status of whiteness; and 2), expand our understanding and discussions of the psychic life of race in our colonial context, including the psychic life of whiteness and how it specifically produces colonial psychical disorders that result in violent thoughts, discourses, and behaviors.

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