Allen, Texas, where the El Paso shooter lived, is one of several affluent suburban communities in the Dallas area served by a commercial online calendar called “Bubblelife.” The name is a play on what used to be a disparaging term for the Park Cities area, a rich, almost all-white enclave surrounded on all sides by the city of Dallas.
In fact, I guess I hadn’t been keeping up. The fact that this online community calendar service has adopted “bubble” as part of its trademark — Park Cities Bubblelife, Coppell Bubblelife, Lakewood Bubblelife and so on — must mean that being a bubble is now a brag.
The knee-jerk here is obvious. The alleged El Paso shooter came from this suburban bubble. His racist xenophobia inspired him to carry out a heinous massacre of innocents. The knee-jerk would be to conclude that Allen must be at least partially at fault for the massacre, because it’s such an all-white bubble.
Ah, but here’s the rub with that. That last part, all-white, would be substantially inaccurate, wrong enough to make us miss important truths about the El Paso shooter and maybe even about all of the shooters.
Only the original bubble, the Park Cities, is still virtually white. According to the American Community Survey of the U.S. Census, Highland Park, with a population of 8,564, was 93.7% white in 2017. University Park, with a population of 23,068, was 91.4% white. In today’s world, that’s white.
Dallas had a population of 1.3 million in 2017, of which 61.8% was white. That’s less white.
Allen, like the inner-ring suburbs of Plano and Richardson that buffer it from the city, was whiter than the city in 2017 but less white than the original bubble in the Park Cities. Allen was 69.5% white; Plano was 67%; and Richardson, on the border with Dallas, was 67.3% white.
In all three of those places, the nonwhite population was almost twice as Asian as it was black and substantially more Asian than Hispanic. Allen was 16.2% Asian. Plano was 19.4% Asian. Richardson was 15.9% Asian. All three places also had significant black, Hispanic and Middle Eastern Muslim populations.
The stereotypical profile of these places is that they are still ex-post-‘70s white busing flight meccas for bubbas and boneheads. One reason the stereotype is so obdurate is that the old bubba bonehead contingent is so good at living up to it.
Former Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne, a Trump appointee and Fox News talking hairdo (the one who wanted to pass an ordinance to protect Irving from Sharia law) has just announced she is running for Congress to replace longtime Republican incumbent Kenny Marchant, who announced this week he will not seek reelection to the House. So Van Duyne is still with us and still the poster child for … everything.
In 2015, at the height of Van Duyne’s crusade to protect Irving from being subjected to Sharia law (an episode of bubba boneheadary if there ever was one), Irving City Council member John Danish took me on a tour of a new subdivision then under construction in Irving. In this bright, shiny brand-new place, all of the houses were immense and all of the new streets were named for places in the Muslim Middle East.
Danish, a lawyer, gave me to believe that many of his best clients were among the burgeoning business class of Middle Eastern, Asian, black and Mexican newcomers settling in Irving and across the northern suburban tier of the Dallas area. He was alarmed, offended and worried by Van Duyne and the insulting things she was saying about nonwhites.
While we drove, Danish talked about the dynamism and success that immigrants and upwardly mobile American minorities were bringing to the area, not to mention the legal fees. He clearly hoped I could write something that would offset the Van Duyne effect, although I had my doubts even Shakespeare could have pulled that off.
But I do have an awful lot of anecdotal experience telling me that the dynamism and eclecticism Danish was showing me are the basis for a truer story about that area than the one told by Van Duyne. My wife and I had dinner a few years ago with old friends who live in that general direction, and somehow the topic got around to how many of their new neighbors and fellow church-goers now are nonwhite.
I’m not saying the conversation didn’t have a few bumps. Our friends are like us, old white people. Predictably, a few rueful references were made to white people being “replaced,” a term that now has an unfortunate and I am sure in this case entirely unintended resonance of white supremacy.
I say the resonance was unintended for a few reasons. Except for the rueful asides, intended to be humorous, our friends spoke of their nonwhite friends and neighbors with enormous admiration. After all, the people they were talking about possessed, espoused, lived by and illustrated all of their own values.
They were talking about people who are hard-working, honest, thrifty, self-controlled and self-sufficient, capable of subjugating immediate gratification to long-term goals. At a certain point in the evening, I even wondered if some kind of invidious comparison was being made to myself, but I just worry.
This could even be kumbaya, were it not for one very important additional ingredient to add to the soup: the intense competitiveness of this culture. Even when you fit in, it’s not a comfy place, maybe especially if you fit in.
The ferociously driven immigrants and the fiercely determined upwardly mobile American minorities fit right in here because they all share the same compulsion to succeed. Not getting rich, not getting your kid into the right university, not being able to go to the right place for a vacation, any of those is close to a death in this culture.
We don’t know much about Patrick Crusius the man from Allen arrested for the El Paso shootings. But a more coherent picture is emerging of the young white people who seem to show up consistently in these scenes, in the mass shootings, in the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, in Charleston, South Carolina, in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church killings two years earlier. These are white people who cannot compete.
A significant tell, if not a touchstone, is the term “incel,” which means involuntarily celibate. They can’t get dates, so they hate females. Apparently the online culture of white supremacy has a significant overlap with incel culture.
But a lack of luck with the opposite sex also may be only a marker for other areas of life in which there has been failure and disappointment. I know this is anecdotal and not based on any rigorous analysis, but the general image that comes to my own mind is mainly of young men living in their parents’ basements, stewing over an agenda of frustration, humiliation and rejection while fingering an AR-15.
Then we have the very public piece of it, the part we know for sure. What kind of person marches with a torch and says he won’t be replaced? What better way could there be to convey that you’re going to be replaced? It’s like chaining yourself to your desk. C’mon. You know that’s not going to work. That’s supposed to be white pride? Oh, please. Get some real pride.
I don’t think the term, white supremacy, captures what this really is. Not here. Not now. That may be what they call it. But it’s the opposite. It’s white inferior-ocracy or something. In fact, we all should wonder if somehow through some huge trick of history, a magnificent and terrible inversion has taken place and the word itself, white, when shouted in the street, has become a kind of heat sink for inferiority.
The world I see in Allen and all of those suburbs is not my world. I don’t just not play golf. I am morally opposed to golf. But you know what? Allen is a wonderful world. It’s a world where dreams and ambition and courage and all the very best things in human nature — well, many of them — can come true. It’s the American dream, because it is the human dream.
Yes, I know. Beth Van Duyne. So you won’t even go the picnic if there are ants? Brush her off.
The universality of humanity and the majesty of human dignity are alive and well in places like Allen, except for the people who can’t fit in. It is not a good world in which to fail.
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The personal bit of irony for me is that, instead of becoming Nazis, all of those young men who can’t get laid and can’t get a job and can’t get anybody to take them seriously could come live with me. I’m an old hippie. I love people who can’t fit in.
But their own world does not love them. And when they feel that lack of love and respect, when they see these people who don’t look like them achieving the success they were supposed to achieve in the very place where they were supposed to achieve it, then I suppose they blame these people for replacing them.
Here’s the hard nut. They’re not wrong about all of it. They are being replaced. That part is true. That part is hard. Their campaign to slaughter strangers will only hasten the inevitable outcome. In the end, Allen wins. They don’t.
If we think of the El Paso shooter as a supremacist, if we blame him on Allen, if we write Allen off as some all-white Texas bubble for bubbas and boneheads, then we miss the whole puzzle on every side. And then we still have to deal with that word: white. What does that word even mean anymore? What does it convey? We know what it conveyed in El Paso.