White People and Guns

While there is always a lot of conversation about violence in black communities, a sad fact that is caused by a myriad of reasons, the vitriol is noticeably less when it comes to white men and guns.

To be honest, as this administration increases the surveillance on immigrants in this country, I have shuddered and thought out loud that the last thing we need is more white men with guns and charged with the power to “get rid of the bad guys.”

With the recent and tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 people dead, the president is pushing his opinion that schools need teachers to be armed, acting out his belief that “the only way to stop bad guys with guns is to have good guys with guns.”

While the prospect of teachers having guns in schools is frightening in and of itself, the fact that more civilians might very well be deputized and therefore authorized to use guns is cause for grave concern.

During slavery, ordinary men – white men – were deputized and given the authority to catch runaway slaves. They were often assisted in their violence against African Americans by law enforcement officers.

White bus drivers in the South were deputized to keep order on their buses; they meted out violence against black people who dared challenge them when they were being unfair or disrespectful to their black passengers.

In her book At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape and Resistance – a New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power, author Danielle McGuire writes that bus drivers were granted police powers and that they used their power to enforce segregation “with an iron fist.”

Many, she wrote, kept blackjacks and pistols under their seats and used those weapons when their authority is challenged. Writes McGuire: “The complaint records of the Birmingham buses are riddled with reports of drivers beating, shooting, and even killing black passengers.

One of the major reasons for the Black Lives Matter Movement is the brutality meted against black people by white men, some police officers and some not, with guns. Michael Dunn, who murdered Jordan Davis because he didn’t like the 17-year-old’s loud “thug” music and George Zimmerman, the killer of Trayvon Martin …were white men with guns who felt like they had the right to shoot their victims.

It is worth noting that the young people who organized the BLM movement have not been violent but have gotten accused of being violent; their fight for justice has been obscured by the cries of “violence,” while these white teens – who are to be applauded – are just being referred to as activists. That double standard way of looking at the actions of black and white young people who are basically doing the same thing – fighting for justice and for their concerns to be heard- is part of why giving white people, specifically white men – more excuses to use guns against black people.

Someone will say that the mass shootings have been committed by white youth in white schools and that any armed teacher will be acting in response to a school shooter. But as happens in this country all of the time, the most often shot will be black students by white teachers who are afraid of them.

Our history is riddled with reports of white people – primarily white men – with guns feeling like they were authorized to attack and kill black people. In the South during the 60s and before, white men felt free to shoot and kill black men for even looking at white women, or for being accused of any number of crimes. No crime had actually to have been committed; the accusation was enough for these men to wield violent power against a black person. These “deputized” civilians were seldom arrested for their actions, and if they perchance did have a trial, they were most often tried by all-white, primarily all-male juries – who refused to convict them.

This is our history.

The underlying feeling of far too many white people that black people are bad and are therefore deserving of any violence they suffer from white people has not gone away; America’s racism is a virulent poison that infects everyone it touches, and black people are by far and away the targets of gun violence from white men.

Black women, long before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus, suffered horribly on buses at the hands of white men with guns, using them to force black women to acquiesce to being raped and left for dead. Again, even though in many of these cases the assailant or assailants were known, they were seldom arrested, let alone convicted of a crime.

Watching the images of Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agents rounding up and arresting immigrants, some of whom are illegal and others not, drives home the point that this country does not need another reason to give white men guns with the power to make decisions on who is good and who isn’t, who gets to live and who doesn’t.

In the case of arming teachers, it is almost certain to be the case that the teachers who agree to carry arms will end up disproportionately shooting children and students of color and these children will have no recourse, no defense and not enough money to get a good attorney to keep them out of jail – if they, in fact, survive being shot.

It will be too easy for teachers to say “I was in fear for my life” as the reason a black child is killed, while little white children are given the benefit of the doubt.

Too many white people have been taught that they are better than black people, that they have superior morals and ethics, and that black people are inherently bad. Those core beliefs have been behind the violence – and the acceptance of that violence – that has resulted in the death, injury and/or incarceration of too many black people.

Armed teachers will just be another deputized group who will help keep America’s violence against people of color alive and well. This idea of the current administration is not a good one …and it is doubtful that it will stop mass killings.

It will just give more white people a legitimate excuse to use a gun against members of a race whom they do not understand and do not want around.

A candid observation.

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