Directly following the shooting that occurred at a music festival in Las Vegas this past Sunday, headlines across the nation blared the news that “the largest mass shooting in the United States history” had taken place. And while approximately 59 people were killed in the shooting, it still fails to fill the title as our country’s deadliest shooting, and claiming that the Nevada attack was the largest shooting in our history is whitewashing our past.
Let’s first examine the Wounded Knee Massacre. In 1890, U.S. Cavalry troops shot and killed 150 innocent Native American men, women, and children, on-site, with people dying later to total to approximately 300 deaths. The white soldiers who administered the murders were motivated merely by the desire for Lakota tribe land.
Another massacre that society tends to overlook is when 150 African-Americans were murdered by a white mob in the Colfax massacre during the Reconstruction Era. In 1919, almost 237 black people were killed after a white deputy died during a “meeting of ways to get more money from cotton crops” in Elaine, Arkansas. In 1917, an estimated 100 black people were massacred during the East St. Louis riots, and again in what is known as the Tulsa race riot of 1921, where explosives were incorporated as well.
While in contemporary U.S. history, the Las Vegas shooting stands out for the number of deaths, history and its common denominator should not be forgotten. The mass shootings that rank above the Nevada massacre all targeted minorities, specifically African-Americans. And despite how one of the country’s seemingly preferred things to do is to deny the facts that prove white men to be the largest demographic in national terrorism, titling the Las Vegas attack as the deadliest shooting in history is dismissing the minorities previously terrorized by white men.
Although it is certainly no superlative competition between which tragedy was more tragic, to say that shootings are not apart of what this country represents is wrong: it has always been apart of our history, most just choose to ignore it.