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.

Evil Doesn’t Win

Ultimately, evil does not win.

It feels like it does. It gets momentary victories, but in the end, it really does not win. Evil seems to have an amazing capacity to produce good.

Our senators did not approve wider background checks for people purchasing guns. Someone planted bombs at the Boston Marathon. A sick young man murdered children and dedicated adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. A misguided young man shot and killed a young girl he did not know in Chicago, just days after she returned from performing at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration. So many young people die by violence in urban areas, and nobody really seems to care. The Prison Industrial Complex continues to reap profit off the lives of the unfortunate.

Many young men and women have suffered from sexual abuse from the priests they loved and trusted.  Offending priests have been protected, and it stayed quiet for as long as it could. Health care is so expensive that those who must need it cannot afford it. People in this, the wealthiest nation in the world, are hungry; some have to choose between taking the medicine they need and buying food for their children. The elderly – the jewels of any society – are being left alone to fend for themselves, after having lived lives that helped this nation get to where it is. It seems like evil is having its way …but in the end, evil doesn’t win.

A man named Hitler killed millions of Jewish people and the world, for the most part, remained silent. Africans were stolen from their homelands and brought to the Americas  by people wanting to use their labor while belittling their lives. Slavery became big business, and the government refused for so long to pass laws to protect these people who built this country. Even the presidents of our nation looked the other way while slavery and discrimination and lynching persisted. The United States Supreme Court did not protect “the least of these,” a group which included women, children, African – Americans, and others.  The rights of members of the LGBT community have long been ignored, in spite of the fact that all people are children of God, worthy of dignity.

People rejoice when they carry out evil; people rejoice and hug each other when they have done something evil for their own reasons that will result in the suffering of others. Evil was what allowed even churches to turn away a young boy named Ryan White because he had full-blown AIDS.

Evil seems to have the upper hand in so many instances, but in the end, evil doesn’t win. What people mean for evil, God means for good. It may take a while, but God and good really do trump evil. Good is so often pushed so deeply underground that it takes a while for it to bloom, but it always does bloom, eventually. From the evil called slavery came the Civil Rights movement; from the evil on a Monday afternoon in Boston came an interfaith service; from the evil called gun violence that resulted in children and adults in Newtown suffering unmentionable loss came the resolve of parents and relatives, and a former legislator named Gabby Giffords to fight evil, fight the NRA, and to fight complacency.

Evil only seems to win. In the end, it doesn’t. Even evil comes to justice, by and by.

A candid observation.

Speaking Freely is Risky

In spite of our Constitutional right of free speech, it is a fact that sometimes, when one dares speak out about something that is true, and not necessarily complimentary about our country or some powerful group, that individual stands to be, well, quieted.

I am thinking of two conversations that are swirling around our country right now. First, the presumptive candidate for Secretary of Defense, former Senator Chuck Hagel, has drawn criticism for saying that the “Jewish lobby is intimidating.”  And secondly, anyone who dares say that automatic and semi-automatic weapons should be outlawed in this country stands to be called “unpatriotic” and one who is not in support of the Second Amendment.

First, the “Jewish lobby” statement. Is it safe to say that the Jewish people have a lot of power in this country, and that they probably DO have a strong lobby that MIGHT BE intimidating to some? I didn’t know there was a “Jewish lobby,” but so what if it is intimidating? The National Rifle Association (NRA) lobby is intimidating, isn’t it?  Someone said today that former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords has a lot of courage because she and her husband are going to promote gun control. She has courage, this newsperson said, because she is going up against the NRA. The reason the NRA lobby is intimidating is because it has power, and it has power because it is well-funded and well-organized. There is nothing wrong with that; it is doing what an effective lobby group is supposed to do.

If there is a Jewish lobby, and it is “intimidating,” that means that this lobby group, like the NRA, is well-funded and well-organized. That’s a good thing. Lobby groups exist to advocate for their people, their groups, their causes. If the Jewish lobby is “intimidating,” then good! To say that it is intimidating does not mean one is anti-Semitic, not in my view. It simply means that it is respected for the work it does and for the effects and result it produces.

There are some things that we as Americans don’t like to talk about, and if someone says something about those “things,” he or she stands to be criticized, free speech notwithstanding. When the war against Iraq began years ago, one could be dubbed “unpatriotic” if one criticized it. When someone says that certain policies and practices in this country are racist, he or she is accused immediately of playing “the race card.” When attention to the treatment of women in this country came front and center, one could be called “sexist” if he or she said that a woman was not qualified, for example, for a job or position that she clearly WASN’T qualified for.

It is a ridiculous way to live, being afraid to say what’s true. Saying what’s true, in a polite and civil way, having the freedom to do that, is part of what makes America …America.  I don’t think America ought to allow the sale of automatic and semi-automatic weapons. We are not in a war. Automatic and semi-automatic weapons are for war, for military combat. They are meant to kill a lot of people in the shortest amount of time possible. I support the right of Americans to own guns – with proper procedures in place to check potential owners out – but there is no way ordinary people need to be walking around with semi-automatic weapons!

We as Americans think too narrowly. Just because I might criticize something America does or does not do does not mean I do not love America! If I criticize, or make a comment about the media being biased does not mean I hate the media. We are adults; we ought to be able to know the truth and talk about the truth, or even our opinion about the truth or untruth of a situation, without being labeled or shot down or criticized.

Whenever one has many rights and privileges, one also has great responsibility. The responsibility we have as Americans is to think more broadly and allow more views that our own, without labeling someone because he or she has a different opinion. Thinking so narrowly kind of makes a mockery of the “rights” we hold so dear.

A candid observation …