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Experts discuss the root of violent, extremist behavior

Published: May. 16, 2022 at 6:36 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - It was another violent weekend not only in Toledo but we’ve seen yet another mass shooting this time in Buffalo, New York.

One aspect that experts say is leading to those violent instances is something called “group think.” When a group of people decides violence is acceptable, many innocent people can be caught in the middle.

The hope is to understand where these violent offenders are coming from to get a better idea of how to show them violence is not answer.

Far too many are desensitized to national mass shooting events, like Buffalo over the weekend, or even a weekend marking multiple homicides in our own back yard.

“Why are we surprised? Look at how we’re acting as adults in some spaces. It’s almost socially accepted on how we treat each other, how we attack each other with little to no proof or evidence,” said Marvin Whitfield, Ph.D. of Big Brothers Big Sister of Northwestern Ohio.

Dr. Whitfield is the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters and spent most of his early career in law enforcement. He says changing mindsets is the best way to hopefully change violent behavior.

“I’m not worried about that young man’s weapons. His ignorance to how he views other cultures escalated to the point where it was a threat. He reacted,” said Dr. Whitfield.

“Group think” contributes to that, according to Doctor Whitfield. Social media can inundate someone with people who agree with their radical or violent behaviors -- not showing them the other side.

“We need to actually put the resources in to understand why are we so quick to be negative, why are we so quick to be violent as a culture?” said Dr. Whitfield.

Changing those behaviors won’t be easy. Education will help, especially getting to people in the younger years, and showing them mentors who have succeeded and can be emulated.

“We didn’t get here overnight, so I wish I could tell you there was a quick fix. The only thing the data shows us and the science shows us is expand our cultural competency. Cultural competency is a concept learning and understanding about other cultures’ beliefs,” said Whitfield.

Experts also consider the trauma people see or deal with and how that can turn into violent behavior. Doctor Whitfield has worked with his staff to not only ask ‘what happened?’ but also ask what caused someone to feel this way.

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