by AJ Farrar
The US government has a well-documented history of manic overreactions to national news items. A young child was one of three murdered by a terrorist’s bomb in Boston, and politicians quickly moved to reopen the debate over the constitutionality of torture. The aftermath of the Columbine shooting brought with it zero-tolerance policies that have since compromised the livelihood of hundreds of non-violent children. Everything that happened after 9/11. And when almost two dozen people were injured in a mass shooting in New Orleans on Mother’s Day this year, uhhhhh…
Since the killings in Newtown and Aurora, I’ve heard a lot of liberal musings on the disparate coverage of gun violence between POC communities and white ones, and it always seems to lead back to the Kanye-ism that white people just don’t care about us black folk.
Well, ok, sure. The country’s disinterest in the happenings of its lower income, brown-skinned citizens is an easy, often accurate assessment that stops just short of naming itself racism (a convenient plus when speaking in white spaces). But this conclusion also sidesteps an ugly truth about the US and its gun control debates: historically, the 2nd Amendment’s inflexible interpretation has always been used to legitimize the fear and perpetuate the disenfranchisement of brown people. ‘Murrica’s Jesus-sanctioned duty to carry has unfailingly precipitated mass deaths in POC communities for centuries, and we have felt so secure in that reality that we made it an inalienable right.
This is not some poetic overstatement. Even before the United States’ inception, European colonizers clung to their guns as their only “defense” against the unpredictable brown bodies within their borders. In a diary entry quoted in Guns, Germs, and Steel, a young Spanish invader describes the totally-not-ironic terror he felt while he and other conquistadores laid in wait to ambush an unarmed Mayan community. In later years, the Wild West’s gun slinging era romanticized a hostile territorial expansion that further decimated already compromised native populations. During the Reconstruction, dozens of white, Southern militias organized widespread efforts to terrorize black families and curb the political activity and movement of newly freed slaves; it was only the liberal invocation of the 14th Amendment that slowly shut down white Southerners’ attempts to prevent black gun ownership. Gun control legislation may be untouchable now, but it only took a year after Huey Newton’s Black Panthers arrived on the scene for the nation to fundamentally alter its concealed carry laws. So while conservative arguments warning of Super Hitler’s impending tyranny are monopolizing Congress’ floor time, they obscure a pretty unconstitutional-sounding reality: white America’s infatuation with guns has had as much to do with preemptive racial warfare as it has freedom-loving liberty.
America’s Brown Stranger Danger complex continues to create unnecessary victims today. Black people have been so effectively contained within cramped, resource-poor cities, that victims of crime in these areas are almost entirely other black people —meaning black people are one of the most vulnerable targets of violence in America. Yet the most vocal gun advocates, typically far removed from the depressed war zones of Detroit, New Orleans or Chicago, consistently cite the rising crime rates in homogenously black urban centers as the reason they support less gun regulation. NRA-backed policies, implicitly designed to protect its small town and rural members from imagined black boogeymen, have opened a floodgate of weapons from red and blue dog states into already violence-plagued inner cities. The resulting crime wave then cycles back to justify even further loosening of gun legislation. Meanwhile, the actual victims of inner city violence are erased from the discussion, their deaths indiscriminately assumed to be a step toward white suburbia’s safety. Sound like a reach? Mother Jones, a lefty rag if there ever was one, has no problem excluding gun violence “primarily related to gang activity or armed robbery” from the rolls of the country’s mass shooting log, whether the victims were 2 years old or 22. Hell, black people can’t even play the role of hero without being dismissed as deviants–Charles Ramsey facilitated the rescue of three white women, and The Smoking Gun did a background check.
And then there is New Orleans. Media outlets seemed to begrudgingly cover the Mothers’ Day parade shooting, obligated to report due to its unfortunate proximity to the Boston marathon bombing, but convinced that it was just another instance of black-on-black mob violence. It was reporters’ post-racial duty to assure the public that they weren’t the same bunch who refuse to acknowledge black Amber alerts, or the ones who only mention Chicago’s appalling rate of gun violence in the back pages after every hundredth victim. Yet as soon as all were assured that the perpetrators in New Orleans were only two gang members, news crews quickly packed up. Never mind that Ka’Nard Allen, 10 years old, had been shot for the second time in a year. Never mind that 20 parade-goers had been injured during a New Orleans holiday staple, some of them critically. Never mind that a street full of unarmed people had been shot at. As long as the faceless brown masses are considered a pool of potential predators, black victimization will never be afforded an honest and sympathetic accounting.
And yet, for some reason, even black liberal pundits rarely entertain the notion that the overhaul of the 2nd Amendment itself is what will prevent more senseless murders in America’s cities. As long as American policy is this severely tainted by racism, I no longer want gun safety dictated by the empathy of our whitest citizens. Background checks are only sufficient if black, law abiding hurricane victims are not in danger of being accosted by frightened, armed white homeowners. An assault weapons ban is only laudable when a black teenager’s benign text messages can no longer be used as evidence against him in his own murder. A gun registry will suffice only after city police departments consistently devote as many resources to protecting their streets as suburban school districts have to arming their janitors. Until America can get its act together, more guns need to be disposed of, not monitored. This country owes its brown children a lot more than a footnote and an apology.
All work published on BGD is the intellectual property of its writers.
Please do not republish anything from this site without express written
permission from BGD. Yes, linking to this post on Facebook and Twitter or elsewhere is okay.
AJ Farrar is an air traffic controller in upstate New York. Political posturing and wild conjecture help relieve her stress.
SUPPORT Black Girl Dangerous and help amplify the voices of queer and trans* people of color!
Get BGD creator Mia McKenzie’s debut literary novel, The Summer We Got Free. It just WON the Lambda Literary Award!
Follow us on Twitter: @blackgirldanger
LIKE us on Facebook