Editor's note: Michael Kimmel is distinguished professor of sociology at SUNY Stony Brook. His new book "Angry White Men" will be published next year.
By Michael Kimmel, Special to CNN
(CNN) - For the past few days, Americans have been weeping together and wringing our hands once again at the senseless tragedy of a mass murder inside a school. The horrific scene in Newtown, Connecticut, is now seared permanently in our collective conscience, as we search for answers. We'll look at the photograph of Adam Lanza and ask over and over again how he could have come to such a deadly crossroads.
We still know nothing about his motives, only the devastating carnage he wrought. And yet we've already heard from experts who talk about mental illness, Asperger's syndrome, depression, andautism. The chorus of gun boosters has defensively chimed in about how gun control would not have prevented this.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee offered the theory that since "we have systematically removed God from our schools, should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?" (As if those heathen children deserved it?)
All the while, we continue to miss other crucial variables - even though they are staring right back at us when we look at that photograph. Adam Lanza was a middle class white guy.
If the shooter were black and the school urban, we'd hear about the culture of poverty; about how inner-city life breeds crime and violence; perhaps even some theories about a purported tendency among blacks towards violence.
As we've seen in the past week, it's not only those living on the fringes of society who express anger through gun violence.
Yet the obvious fact that Lanza - and nearly all the recent mass murderers who targeted non-work settings - were middle class white boys seems to barely register. Look again at the pictures of Jared Lee Loughner (Tucson), James Eagan Holmes (Aurora) and Wade Michael Page (Oak Creek) - a few of the mass killers of the past couple of years. (Yes, the case of Seung-Hui Cho, the perpetrator at Virginia Tech, the worst school shooting in our history, stands out as the exception. And worth discussing.)
Why are angry young men setting out to kill entire crowds of strangers?FULL STORY
Editor's note: Michael Zuckerman is a Harvard College graduate who works for the Boston Consulting Group in Washington. David Gergen is a senior political analyst for CNN and has been an adviser to four presidents. He is a professor of public service and director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. Follow him on Twitter: @David_Gergen.
By Michael Zuckerman and David Gergen
(CNN) - As the nation continues to grieve for the six adults and 20 children taken too soon in the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting, a hero from another generation has slipped peacefully into the pages of history.
There were many who knew Sen. Dan Inouye, a Democrat and Medal of Honor recipient from Hawaii who passed away Monday, better than we did. But we had the good fortune of sitting with him this past summer, interviewing him and hearing some of the remarkable stories from his life in America's service. The portrait that emerged was that of a man of courage, character, and, perhaps above all, a singular spirit of peace and good will that was forged, paradoxically, amid some of the most horrendous carnage of the Second World War.
News: Hawaii's Daniel Inouye, Senate's second longest-serving member, dead at 88
Some of Inouye's deeds - his valor serving on the German front in one of America's most decorated (and heavily wounded) units, his Herculean political efforts on behalf of his home state - have been well remarked. What we were especially struck by was his quiet, sagelike humanity.
Editor's note: Historian and author Tiya Miles is a professor at the University of Michigan's Afroamerican and African Studies department and a 2011 MacArthur genius award recipient.
By Tiya Miles, Special to CNN
(CNN) - In the documentary film "Black Indians," a man who appears to be African-American recounts his delight at eliciting shocked looks from strangers when he launches into a conversation with his wife in the Cherokee language.
The man who tells this story is Cherokee as well as black and a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. His is just one among thousands of examples that show diversity has always been a core aspect of African-American identity.
That diversity has been rich - from the moment when Africans from different tribes, cultures and language groups were captured as slaves and transported to North America to the present day, when African-Americans live in various regions and intermarry with members of other ethnic groups.
The evidence of this diversity is so obvious that it may seem at times invisible.
It exists not only in linguistic diversity - in African-American fluency in English, Spanish, French, Japanese, Cantonese, American indigenous languages and so on - but also in the regionalisms of African-American cuisine from coastal rice and seafood dishes to Southern barbecue sauces.
The salad bowl analogy that is often used to describe multifaceted American society applies just as well within African-American life. There is no such thing as a singular black culture or coherent African-American community. Instead there are many black cultures, many black communities. FULL POST
Editor's note: What defines being black in America? Is it the color of your skin, your family, what society says or something else? Soledad O’Brien reports “Who Is Black in America?” on CNN Saturday at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
(CNN) - "Who is Black in America?" explores how color affects identity. In this video, Danielle Ayers, a biracial woman, discusses her search for identity and the challenges of being color blind after growing up in a primarily white Mennonite community where race was not discussed.
Editor's note: In today’s United States, is being black determined by the color of your skin, by your family, by what society says or by something else? Soledad O’Brien reports “Who Is Black in America?” on CNN at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Sunday.
(CNN) - "Who is Black in America?" explores how color affects identity. In this video, slam poets Kai Davis, Hiwot Adilow and Telia Allmond from the Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement perform a poem, "Team Lightskin," about their experiences growing up as light-skinned black women.
By Adeline Chen and Teo Kermeliotis, CNN
(CNN) - Along the lush sea-islands and the Atlantic coastal plains of the southern East coast of America, a distinctive group of tidewater communities has stuck together throughout the centuries, preserving its African cultural heritage and carving out a lifestyle that is uniquely its own.
The Gullah/Geechee people are direct descendants of West African slaves brought into the United States around the 1700s. They were forced to work in rice paddies, cotton fields and indigo plantations along the South Carolina-Georgia seaboard where the moist climate and fertile land were very similar to their African homelands.
After the abolition of slavery, they settled in remote villages around the coastal swath, where, thanks to their relative isolation, they formed strong communal ties and a unique culture that has endured for centuries.
"The Gullah/Geechee Nation is an extremely tightly knit community," says Chieftess Queen Quet, who was chosen to represent the Gullah/Geechee people in 2000. "It is as tightly knit as a sweet grass basket that's sewn together and as tightly knit as a cast net is sewn together - there's strength in it and that means if you pull on it, you can't just get it to break apart."FULL STORY
By Adam Cohen, Special to Time.com
(TIME) - When Major Mary Jennings Hegar was serving as a captain in Afghanistan her aircraft was shot down by enemy fire while she and her crew were evacuating injured soldiers. Though injured by a bullet that penetrated the helicopter, she completed the rescue mission while under fire on the ground — and received the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross for “outstanding heroism and selfless devotion to duty.”
One thing Hegar, who has served three tours in Afghanistan, did not do: get credit for serving in combat. It is illegal for women to be in official combat positions — and to get the benefits that come with them. Hegar and three other service women filed a lawsuit in federal court in San Francisco last week in a long overdue challenge to the Pentagon’s nonsensical and unconstitutional ban.
Women have always served in the military (and have lost their lives,) but Congress and the Pentagon have put an array of restrictions on them. In 1988, the military adopted the “risk rule,” which allowed women to be kept out of even non-combat positions if they were likely be put at risk of being fired on or captured. In 1994, it dropped the risk rule, but Defense Secretary Les Aspin adopted the current ban on women in official ground combat positions, after a poll had showed weak public support for allowing women to volunteer for combat.
Many military women — who are 14% of the 1.4 million active military — object to the policy because it blocks them from applying for some 238,000 jobs and excludes them from certain promotions. This is particularly unfair because the ban doesn’t actually protect women in service. Fully 85% of women who have served since Sept. 11, 2001 report having served in a combat zone or an area where they received combat or imminent danger pay, according to the lawsuit, and half reported being involved in combat operations. At least 860 female troops have been wounded and 144 killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.Read Adam Cohen's full column
(CNN) - The image of the black nerd has changed.
Steve Urkel, the nerdy character on the popular sitcom "Family Matters", is not the only "blerd", or black nerd, in popular culture these days.
Author Eric Deggans and CNN's Carol Costello discuss how "blerds" have become cool, and now include comedian Donald Glover, rapper Kanye West, and musician Questlove.
By the CNN Wire Staff
(CNN) - A federal appeals court on Thursday narrowly struck down Michigan's 6-year-old ban on considering race and gender in college admissions, a ruling that the state intends to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 8-7 that the affirmative action ban, which Michigan voters passed in a 2006 referendum, violated the U.S. Constitution's equal protection laws.
The ruling is the latest step in a years-long legal battle over whether the state's colleges can use race and gender as a factor in choosing which students to admit. The ban's opponents say the case could help strike down anti-affirmative-action policies in other states if it goes to the Supreme Court.FULL STORY