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The Buffalo supermarket shooter bragged about wanting to kill Black people. So did the guy who shot up a South Carolina prayer group. The shooter at the Pulse Nightclub wanted to kill gays. The Pittsburg synagogue shooter wanted to kill Jews. And the El Paso Walmart shooter wanted to kill Hispanic people. All explicitly racist attacks.

In contrast, from Columbine through Sandy Hook and Parkman, and now to Uvalde, none of the school shooters stated a racial motivation for their massacres. That hasn’t stopped commentators from announcing racial motivations for school shootings. And, as in Uvalde, it doesn’t diminish the fact that police conduct contributed to the number of deaths.

Mass shootings, whether driven by racial animus, fear of “replacement” or just plain teenage angst and social pressures, have similar effects: devastated families and communities, and generalized terror in society.

Perhaps, rather than trying to cram every shooting into a racial explanation, it might be productive to consider them within Isabel Wilkerson’s historical study of caste systems.

When the Uvalde shooting first got publicity, Contra Costa attorney, white supremacist and ex-sheriff’s deputy, Daryl Chilimidos, proclaimed on the internet that this was a crime by an “illegal alien.” That story was quickly debunked. But after it had been proven not true, Black Republican polemicist Candace Owens published the claim again, knowing that it was untrue.

What reality makes a white supremacist and a Black polemicist spread the same fake news claim? If they are doing it as part of defending a caste system the false claim has a sort of logic that unifies Black and White extremists.

In her analysis, Isabel Wilkerson notes that the Indian caste system is thousands of years old. In contrast, America’s started to be designed, as a business model, in the mid-17th century. In India there are five major caste levels, with hundreds or thousands of minor caste distinctions within the five basics. These subcastes might be seen as analogous to subcaste systems in America’s slave populations, where “house slaves” claimed higher status than “field slaves.” With her alignment with the oppressor castes, Candace Owens models that historical “house slave” “superiority” over the more common working or unemployed Black person.

The basic castes of the Indian system are: Brahmin, at the top with religious justification and the wealth of rulers; Kshatriya, the administrative rulers and protectors of society; Vaishyas, the artisans, merchants, tradesmen and farmers; Shudras, society’s laborers; and, Dalits, the Untouchables.

In pre-U.S. colonial America the merchant and plantation owner class consciously worked to structure caste relationships. They created distinctions between White indentured laborers and Black and Native enslaved laborers, eventually creating an American Dalit caste defined by skin color. In this process, the merchant and plantation owner elevated themselves to a position analogous to Indian Brahmins. The U.S. top caste was defined by wealth and acquisition. The Brahmin religious component was discarded.

Great effort was made to legitimize these new castes, particularly through legislation, specifically defining the Dalit/Black caste, even to defining what cloth they could make their own clothes out of. The other castes were structured to encourage themselves as competing to stay above the Dalit/Black caste, and perhaps to rise into higher castes from which they started.

Because the top caste was designed by wealth, the religious functions and functionaries of traditional Indian Brahmins were reduced down to the Vaishya (tradesman) level. With the creation, in 1858, of a new religion, Southern Baptism, specifically designed for the sole purpose of defending the slavery-based caste system, many religious ‘leaders’ slipped further from Vaishya-artisan level down to the level of mere Shudras, laborer-preachers doing what they were instructed to do by upper caste rulers.

Putting merchants and plantation owners at the top of the caste system defined wealth creation as the central value in the American caste system. And provided motivation for all lower caste people to strive upward. “Cotton was King.” Since divine inspiration was no longer the basis of caste, as in India, the ability to make money implied an ability to move up in class. So an Al Capone or a Michael Corleone could rise from immigrant laborer to hobnob with the rulers of Wall Street, and buy and sell politicians in the Kshatriya class.

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Similarly, people like Marion Anderson, Paul Robeson and Sidney Poitier could make enough money to rise from the Dalits to the Shudras to the Vaishyas and due to their talents and hard work even to the Kshatriyas.

As part of their administrator functions in Indian villages, Kshatriyas were also responsible for military protection of society, although standing armies were not part of Kshatriya tradition. But neither are they part of our traditions. Although Southern states had “slave patrols” as early as the 17th century, the first real “police departments” arose in the middle of the 19th century.

In 1829, English Home Secretary Robert Peel proposed the Metropolitan Police Act, which started to be emulated in following decades by various U.S. cities. But the English model called for strictly non-partisan police, serving only the people of cities. In the U.S. police were often little more than blue-uniformed gangs, aligned with politicians promoting their own caste interests and efforts to accumulate enough wealth to move up in caste. It was well after WW-II that policing in the U.S. began an attempt at professionalism.

So for much of our history, the police, such as they were, were more akin to the slave patrols than to England’s “Peelers” and “Bobbies.” Joining a police department could be a Shudras laborer’s ticket to the Vaishyas or, with promotions, to the less violent, more lucrative bureaucratic ranks of the Kshatriyas. But such promotion always required constant attention to the desires of the upper caste, whose core interest remained financial - Union busting, grape-picker bashing and always keeping Black labor and students “in their (Dalit) place.”

In this context, it is easier to understand the rash of police murders of Black people, particularly given the rise of social media and the new practice of the Dalit/Black caste to record and broadcast incidents of police brutality on the internet. The natural, caste-defensive response from the police has been increased use of violence to try to force the Dalits back into submission.

Not an easy task, now that a Dalit has risen to the top of the Brahmin caste, even while maintaining broad support across all castes. Not an easy task now that our Dalits have gained a few legal rights, and sufficient education to exercise those rights and demand more.

The police, whose caste security has long depended on obeisance to the upper castes, now have to contend with the demands of the lower castes, whether unionizing Vaishya nurses or Dalits insisting on breaking caste barriers. And they have to contend while still focusing on their own well being. Hence their hesitation when a Vaishya caste child, with enough wealth to drop several thousand dollars on weapons as a birthday present to himself, decides to shoot up a school of Shudras caste children.

We are learning that the Uvalde police response to the shooting was divided by street, Shudras level officers who wanted to go in and save children and a Kshatriya level police administrator who wanted to do “the safe” thing, and wait for guidance and instruction. Eventually, Shudras- or Vaishya-level officers acted, against the orders of the Kshatriya administrator and ended the situation.

It isn’t about race, but rather about caste. While the Uvalde shooting was unfolding in Texas, caste dynamics were all over the airwaves in the form of the Amber Heard / Johnny Depp defamation case. (Am I being sexist by listing “Heard” before “Depp”?) I watched NONE of the trial and saw none of the evidence and express no opinion about the case.

But it can’t escape my notice that many women who claim status as spousal and sexual abuse survivors are stepping up to defend Johnny Depp. It appears that the caste divisions between men and women that are so prevalent in our society may be at work here as well.

Candace Owens, mentioned above, argues that women, of any caste, should not be permitted to control their own reproductive decisions. It is an article of faith, preached by so many Vaishya and Shudras ministers, that god wants men to decide how and when women should reproduce. It is unambiguously a caste distinction to claim that all women are less able to make their own reproductive decisions than men, even men they don’t know and who don’t know them.

For more than half of our national history women were not allowed to vote. They needed to rely on men to make “the right” decisions for them. Just as Black and Hispanic people have had to rely on white men to make “the right” decisions for them. We teach our daughters obedience to authority figures, fathers in their youth and husbands later. We teach them to feel shame more than anger when they are beaten and raped. And then they side with a famous man when he and his famous wife go toe to toe at a public trial.

The attorney/ex-Sheriff’s deputy, previously mentioned, who found it necessary to lie about the Uvalde shooter, in an attempt to demonize him, also has the distinction of having had a Domestic Violence Restraining Order issued against him by the Contra Costa Superior Court. He asserted his superior caste right to inflict domestic violence in his household. But his wife fought back. It is worth noting that if he hadn’t been killed, the Uvalde shooter could have grown up to be a Sheriff’s deputy.