The fragile masculinity of white male terrorism

Maurice Jackson | 3/30/2017, 12:44 p.m.
This past week, news reports revealed that U.S. Army veteran and alleged white supremacist, James Harris Jackson, boarded a coach ...
james Jackson Contributed

This past week, news reports revealed that U.S. Army veteran and alleged white supremacist, James Harris Jackson, boarded a coach bus traveling from Maryland to New York City with the intention to commit murder. According to The New York Times, Jackson knew that he wanted to kill a Black man and that he was especially angered by Black men who dated white women. Despite his vocalized intentions, he unfortunately found a victim in 66-year-old Timothy Caughman, a homeless Black man with no visible romantic ties to white women.

This exceptionally sickening crime not only is another in a series of growing hatred-fueled attacks by white men but also gives us a unique peek into the psychological disposition of an anti-Black terrorist in 2017.

Reminiscent of those in previous generations who committed vile acts against Black people, Jackson had no reservations about openly revealing his hatred for Blackness, but in a rare flash of honesty, he also revealed the nuanced hatred harbored against Black men specifically. Of course this dynamic of targeting Black men specifically is well documented and often discussed along with talks about emasculation and fragile masculinity. Throughout history, white men found themselves attempting to eliminate or intimidate what they saw and arguably see as the most direct threat to their imagined masculinity, men of other races. However, Jackson’s comment on his hatred for Black men with white women pulls back the curtains on the nuance of racist patriarchy, an intersectional ideology that positions women as objects and white men as the natural born proprietors.

In his rage and hatred for interracial couples, he gave zero indication of his intention to kill white participants in these unions, marking his obvious racism. Beyond that and most interestingly, he also never announced his intention to seek out Black women who were involved with white men. If he was invested in preventing the interaction between whiteness and Blackness, then why was there no intent to target all Black folks in white-Black dynamics? What is it about Black men engaging with white women that is more infuriating than white men with Black women in the mind of a terrorist?

By peeling back the layers of Jackson’s triggers, we find that his hatred primarily extends to the group that he believes escapes his potential possession. Because patriarchy teaches that men are the keepers of women, the only person who is a threat to Jackson’s white male entitlement to all women, is another man. Yes, he hates Blackness but he especially hates the Blackness he can’t lay claim to in his heteronormative and patriarchal world. He hates straight Black men because they cannot be his possession but they can still take his possessions.

So we infer that if he hates the Blackness that is out of his possession, then he infinitely hates the Blackness that dared to lay claim to his perceived most natural birthright in white women.

Whether this train of thought is the progression of Jackson’s rationale is not the most important point. Rather the point is that we cannot continue to view racism in a vacuum. It blends and mixes with other forms of oppression in an intersectional way.

Yet, most often when we discuss intersectionality, it is in relation to how oppressed groups in common struggles can band together to change their circumstances. Rarely do we discuss how the intersectionality of oppressive structures such as racism and patriarchy can lead to a pecking order for targets of bigotry. As we unpack how it took straight, Black men interacting with white women to win the first place spot in his hierarchy of hatred, we are given a unique lens to further dissect the thinking of white male terrorism.

Unfortunately, Jackson and his evils are not new but as we move to combat terrorism both domestic and foreign, it is in our best interest to continue to decipher the inner workings of these groups.

Maurice Jackson received his Bachelor of Science in accounting and a minor in global security from Florida A&M University. He is currently pursuing a graduate degree at Columbia University, where he focuses on developing communities and countries.  As an HBCU alumnus, he is passionate about education, economic empowerment and closing the achievement gap for young men of color.