Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Dangers of White Knighting

(Source)
       "White Knighting," or acting the noble knight riding in on a white horse to aid or protect a damsel in distress, seems to be firmly entrenched in the DNA of western men. However, as I've remarked before, it can be dangerous--even deadly--to follow that instinct to where only fools go and angels fear to tread.

        I had noted this yesterday in relation to the killing of two men and the serious injury of a third who had tried to stop a crazy man from yelling slurs and insults a couple of Muslim women in Portland (one of which was wearing a hajib). The result of intervention was that all three men had their throats slashed open with a knife, with two men dying of the wounds. As I wrote yesterday, it appeared "to be a case where the men interjected themselves into a situation without knowing and assessing the relevant facts (i.e., that the man was armed)."

        Greg Ellifritz of Active Response Training has a more detailed analysis of the incident, as well as some words of advice. Ellifritz notes that the "white knights" intervened with the intention of de-escalating the situation. He writes: ".... calmly talking to a violent criminal or attempting to 'de-escalate' the situation only works when the offender is willing to cooperate with the process. Oftentimes, those criminals have no desire to participate in any meaningful dialogue.  I’m all for de-escalation when appropriate, but to say that it is always possible is ludicrous." Always have a backup plan.

       He also speculates that none of the men that were killed or injured entered into the dispute thinking that they would be seriously injured or killed. On that point, he explains:
Recognize that psychopaths and mentally ill suspects don’t think the same way that you or I do.  ...  Even though that level of violence is not within your thought paradigm, it may seem like a perfectly reasonable solution for someone who thinks differently.  Don’t ascribe your morals and rational thought processes to the suspects you face.  They don’t share your cultured worldview.
       And, similar to my comments from the other day, he is critical of the men intervening where they lacked information and, to all appearances, the women were not in any physical harm: the man was yelling at them and insulting them, but had not physically attacks or threatened the women. Ellifritz writes:
As cruel as it may sound, “Not my people.  Not my problem.” is an attitude that most of you should be more enthusiastic about embracing.  I don’t want to see two innocent girls get traumatized by the words of a crazy man.  I also don’t want to have my throat cut open when I try to silence the crazy man’s rant.  In the long run, is it worth your life to protect a stranger from harsh or insulting language?  I say “no.”
        Unfortunately, the one man of the three that survived still has not learned his lesson. The Daily Mail reports: "Portland stabbing survivor says city has a 'white saviour complex' after strangers raise more money for him than for the two teenage girls he was protecting from racist knifeman." According to the article, survivor Micah Fletcher "lamented the fact that more had been given to him and the white adult males who died saving them [the girls], saying it was 'immensely morally wrong'." Fletcher adds: "'We need to remember that this is about them [the girls]...they are the real victims here,' he added, sharing a link to an online fundraising page set up in their names." Translated: "I don't care about the two men who died, or their families, as long as I can once again show my virtue by dashing to the aid of the poor girl that was yelled at." Being a "white knight" is not just being stupid, but is, when you peer beneath the surface, often a sign of selfishness.

(Update: Thank you to Greg Ellifritz for the link).

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