September 21, 2007

Another School Shooting-- Sort Of?



"A student gunman remained on the loose Friday after shooting two students..."  He's male. No motive known.  Classes have been cancelled. School is on lockdown.

"The shooter is still at large," Carlos Holmes, a university spokesman, said at a press conference near campus. "Given the lessons of the past year, we cannot assume that he is not on campus."

The FBI is involved.  And everyone wants to know: is this Cho all over again?

Before you answer, let me give you one single piece of information, that should be irrelevant, that turns out not to be.

If I tell you that the shooting happened at Delaware State-- formerly, "State College for Colored Students"-- do you still think it was a case of a "Cho?"  Why or why not?

I'm not saying he is or is not mentally ill.  I'm asking, why does the racial makeup of the students-- shooter and victims-- change the bias?  Do we think blacks can't be mentally ill?  Or that blacks are naturally violent?  Or do we think whites-- and especially Asians-- would only be violent if they were  mentally ill?

When Cho went nuts-- no pun intended-- I could find almost no one, and absolutely no psychiatrist-- willing to consider the possibility that his behavior did not stem from a mental illness.  If he had only been in treatment, none of this would ever have happened.

Now, when and if this shooter turns out to be black, will psychiatry make that same, very vocal, assumption?  What about the legal system?  And what happens when legal system asks for psychiatry's opinion?