Mystifying behavior

I know that prejudice exists. I know that some people carry their prejudicial animosities to extremes. But despite that awareness, I am still surprised when I read reports like this.

A woman was arrested for stabbing an 18-year-old girl in the head multiple times on a Bloomington Transit bus in Indiana.

Billie R. Davis, 56, repeatedly stabbed the teen using a pocket knife while she was waiting for the bus doors to open at the intersection of West Fourth Street and the B-Line Trail at around 4:45 p.m. on Wednesday, according to police.

According to the police’s review of the stabbing, footage from Bus No. 1777 showed no interaction between the two women prior to the attack.

A passenger who witnessed the attack reportedly followed Davis off the bus and updated police on her location. Davis was arrested near the intersection of Kirkwood Avenue and South Washington Street.

According to an affidavit of probable cause, Davis said she attacked the 18-year-old for being Chinese.

“Race was a factor in why she stabbed her,” the affidavit read, according to The Herald-Times. “Davis made a statement that it would be one less person to blow up our country.”

According to the affidavit, Davis had the intention to kill the teen as footage shows her unfolding her knife and stabbing the victim seven times in the head.

The actions of people like Davis baffle me. Her thinking that Asians are trying to blow up “her” country is not what puzzles me. Thanks to Trump and the Republicans whipping up nativist and anti-Chinese sentiment, such beliefs are sadly all too common. But did she carry a knife with her all the time in the event that she ran across some Asian she could kill? Or was it a spontaneous action that was caused by having an Asian person next to her that caused her to whip out a knife she happened to be carrying?

It is all so pointless. Don’t these people do a simple cost-benefit analysis of their actions? After all, killing one Asian would still leave millions of them alive so the benefit is slight. But the cost to her personally would be huge because she is surely going to prison fr a long time.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    “killing one Asian would still leave millions of them alive”

    Billions, more like.

    Clearly insane.

  2. chigau (違う) says

    I carry a folding pocket knife at all times.
    I use it to open envelopes and boxes, cut string, etc.

  3. John Morales says

    Given the perpetrator is 56 years old and out at large, it seems they can’t have been in their right mind. It sure seems impulsive.

    As for trying to kill someone by stabbing them in the head with a pocket knife, it seems less than practical. Without elaborating, I can certainly think of much better techniques, especially if the knife is sharp.

    As for the intent, I doubt it was to eliminate one of the hordes of asians (sorry, getting into the mindset for purposes of evaluation), and more like to provoke a climate of fear among the target group. A deterrent, and a statement of intent.
    A way to help provoke a race war.

  4. Bruce says

    My bet is that the attacker just assumed that all the police would think the same as she did, so they’d do nothing. Maybe they’d give her a medal. Because she seems delusional, we might as well also guess she could also be delusional this way too.

  5. Rupert says

    “My dear Watson, how dangerous it always is to reason from insufficient data.”
    SH -The Adventure of the Speckled Band.
    There are several possible motives for her behaviour and we do not have enough facts about what might have motivated or driven her to do such a senseless thing.

  6. sonofrojblake says

    #4 and #5 seem to me like they’re assuming WAY more actual thought behind the act than I’d credit this person with. “Climate of fear”? Thinking through what the police/justice system’s attitude to it would be? Nah. The depressing and politically-incorrect-to-recognise fact is that some (very few) people really are just mentally ill in a way that manifests as sudden, unpredictable, entirely irrational violence, and you’re wasting your time trying to rationalise what they do.

  7. John Morales says

    … mentally ill in a way that manifests as sudden, unpredictable, entirely irrational violence …

    Ah, well. That explains it.

    “Climate of fear”?

    What do you think is the impetus of “put them in their place” and similar sentiments? Not exactly Machiavellian, just monkey stuff.

  8. Allison says

    To me it is obvious the perpetrator is not sane or mentally competent.

    If she is “not sane or mentally competent,” then so are an awful lot of elected officials, not to mention the people that elected them, which is the majority of the population in large parts of the US.

    She is merely acting out what the right wing of the Republican party (and a previous US president) have been implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) advocating for years. Not to mention a large chunk of the mainstream news media (hi there, Rupert Murdoch!) At some point, if people are told often enough that group X is the cause of all their troubles and shouldn’t really be there (=exist), some of them are going to act on it. You and I may consider what this woman did unconscionable, but the people she probably listens to will not.

    I’m reminded of the Club Q killings, which a number of high-ranking politicians and extravagantly funded organizations expressed approval of after it happened.

    Calling the perpetrator “mentally ill” is a convenient way of pretending that such atrocities are an aberration, with no connection to the kind of hate speech that has apparently become not only normal and socially acceptable, but seen as praiseworthy. It’s a form of denial — denial that things have gotten this bad.

    I want to also point out the ableism in claiming that it was mental illness that caused her to do it, rather than the hordes of people encouraging her. It’s an ableism that leads to laws and policies that treat anyone who has been diagnosed (rightly or wrongly) mentally ill as if they were dangerous criminals. IOW: please, can we hold off on the loose talk about people who do bad things being “mentally ill”?

  9. karmacat says

    It is likely displacement of anger about her own life. When a person is unhappy about something in their own life, they may employ various defenses. A healthy defense would be to use the unhappiness to make changes in one’s life. The more primitive defense would be displacement because she can’t deal with what is really making her unhappy.

  10. sonofrojblake says

    Calling the perpetrator “mentally ill” is a convenient way of pretending that such atrocities are an aberration

    Not at all. If your contention is that sane racists are regularly attacking minorities in the US, it would be foolish to disagree. However, consider the presented details of this attack
    -- attacker a late-middle-aged woman when most such attackers are young and male
    -- weapon of choice a folding pocket knife in a country where mass shootings are so common they don’t make the news
    -- lack of any apparent interaction between the two before the attack -- no “build up”, which anyone with any experience of violent crime will tell you is almost invariably present as the attacker sounds out the victim before making their move
    -- choice of location -- right out in public in front of many witnesses in broad daylight on a Wednesday afternoon.

    If you’re going to tell me all that is typical of violent crime in the US, rather than incredibly unusual and indicative of something else at work than simple racially motivated hate, then I can only say it’s worse than I thought there and thank fuck I don’t live there or ever have to go there.

    can we hold off on the loose talk about people who do bad things being “mentally ill”?

    You’re right, of course. One should not, in the absence of compelling evidence, reach for “mental illness” as the explanation for horrible, sudden violence. “American” works better as a diagnosis.

  11. birgerjohansson says

    Big news just in
    Boris Johnson testimony to be broadcast live.
    He will be under oath.
    BBC and other Boris-friendly media will not be able to filter the broadcast.
    He went to Eton, so he will not go to prison. But his political career could finally be over.

  12. lanir says

    @sonofrojblake: Expressing disdain or some other negative view of bigots and then expressing your own bigotry is, uh, a little weird? Maybe try to avoid that? Although I guess in a roundabout way you’ve actually gone a considerable ways toward proving the point Allison was making.

    Bigotry isn’t a mental impairment. It’s willful ignorance. It’s looking at the world through hate-filled glasses but only certain parts of the world are edited and preprocessed in a different way before critical thinking begins. But it’s not like the mental issues you can talk to a psychologist about. Those aren’t voluntary. Bigotry, even learned bigotry, is a choice. If you have it you can choose to get rid of it like any other bad habit.

  13. Holms says

    #13 sonof
    We can go simpler still: resentment. Long simmering resentment, directed against an enemy for years. And eventually, a breaking point is reached. Obviously this is highly speculative, but perhaps Davis happened to be one minor irritation away from that point. And then she saw a member of the enemy group, young and chipper, which served as the proverbial last straw.

    I’ll grant you that America is a seasoned veteran of the field, but we see it elsewhere too.

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