The mass shooting in Las Vegas is the deadliest shooting to ever happen in U.S. history committed by a single assailant. The Univision-owned black vertical, The Root, disagrees. In an op-ed Wednesday, social justice writer Michael Harriot writes that it’s only regarded as the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history because “they don’t count black lives.”
As the death toll rises to 59, Harriot takes issue with the proclamation of the fact that it is the “worst mass shooting in U.S. history” by citing tweets by Samuel Sinyangwe, who states that the deadliest mass shootings were instead “acts of white supremacist terrorism.”
Harriot describes the headlines and America’s historical vision as “hyperbolic” with a “blind spot when it comes to people of color. There are countless incidents in which black and brown people were killed in incidents far worse than what happened in Vegas.”
Contrary to Harriot’s narrative, it’s worth noting that numerous Hispanic and black people were also victims of the mass shooting in Las Vegas.
The author cites historical examples of oppression against black people, such as the bombing of Tulsa, Oklahoma, as one such example of a “mass shooting” despite the fact that mostly dynamite was used to bomb the city, which left over 8,000 people homeless. Around 80 to 300 people were killed in the widescale attack.
Harriot delves further into the historical record, with examples such as the enslavement and massacre of the Pomo tribe on Bloody Island in California by white militiamen; the Colfax massacre of 1873, which saw over 150 black men killed; the Thibodaux massacre of 1887, when 35 to 100 black men who were protesting unfair treatment were killed by private militia; and the Elaine Massacre of 1919, when 237 black people were killed in what was deemed a “Negro insurrection” by lawmen in Elaine, Arkansas.
At no point does Harriot mention events like the Battle of Blair Mountain, when dozens of striking white coal miners were gunned down by lawmen and strikebreakers called the Logan Defenders. It’s estimated that around 50 to 100 white strikers were killed. Likewise, the Pinkerton Rebellion claimed almost a dozen lives; and the Ludlow Massacre, which saw the Colorado National Guard attack 1,200 striking coal miners, killing two dozen of them.
As with any other nation, U.S. history is steeped in bloody battles and massacres that have claimed countless lives. The point of highlighting Stephen Paddock’s horrific kill-count in no way marginalizes past tragedies.
“While all loss of life is tragic, on the scale of white people killing people of color, Paddock wouldn’t even make the all-star team,” claims Harriot. “But, like all mediocre white guys, regardless of historical facts, he will be thought of as ‘great.’”
The Root previously told white social justice warriors to stop complaining about being lumped in with white supremacists following the violence in Charlottesville in August.