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.

America Is Not Safe

I have waited to write anything as I have watched the developments in the story of the horrific shooting in Oregon because I had to think.

I had to think, to wonder, what is going on in America, and what I came up with is that America is not safe anymore.

I had been thinking that for a while. I am no longer comfortable going into movie theaters or any public venues, really. When I drive I am really conscious of using my turn signal and watching my speed — which I always did, but with more intentionality now. I think of Sandra Bland, now dead, after she was arrested for <a href=”http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/21/us/texas-sandra-bland-arrest/&#8221; target=”_hplink”>allegedly not using her turn signal</a>. I think of saying things, writing things, to let people know that if I end up dead in someone’s jail cell, that I did not kill myself. I take time to pay attention to the things I warned my son to take note of when he began driving, because I was afraid for him as a black man in America, a young, brilliant, handsome black man in America whose life is never safe here.

America is not safe — not because of international terrorism or ISIS, although ISIS as a force exists. America is not safe — not because of black on black crime. Yes, we in the black community need to be concerned with the destruction of black lives wherever and however it happens, including in our own communities. The one thing GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson said that I agree with is that all black lives matter. There is no doubting that the destruction of black lives occurs in black communities.

But that is not why America is not safe. Black people for the most part do not target and kill white people. Black people, most often go after other black people. Back on black crime is not the reason America is not safe. America is not safe because of white on white crime, because of this tendency of mostly young white men, angry with the world, or angry at their circumstances, and definitely angry at the government, think the way to handle their anger is to go into public spaces and just shoot, or kill masses of people in whatever way they can.

I remember thinking how unsafe America was when Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. I was angry at them for targeting a building with innocent people — including babies — inside. It’s OK to be angry with the government; that is part of being a citizen in a country, but to just bomb a public space, or to just go into a public space and begin randomly shooting, is a punk way to handle the anger. It is a punk way and it is despicable and it is cowardly.

The coverage of the shooting in Oregon has rung hollow for me. Our politicians are more concerned with holding onto an illogical insistence that “common sense gun laws” will keep people from owning guns. Pro-gun advocates insist that more people having guns will reduce gun violence and deaths from gun violence. It is insane and illogical reasoning, borne out of a stubborn resistance to “big government.

The sheriff of Douglas County, John Hanlin, does not believe there should be any kind of gun control and even suggested that in the Sandy Hook situation, where 20 <em>children</em> were left dead, might be a conspiracy. He posted a piece on YouTube after that incident, saying that “there has been a lot of deception surrounding the Sandy Hook shooting.” He suggested that the grieving parents might be “crisis actors.”

This, from a “law enforcement” officer.

There has been much talk about these young men, mostly white, who go into public spaces and gun people down. They are bad people, the experts say. They are mentally ill.

Perhaps. But the point has been made that people who are mentally ill are more likely to kill themselves than others for the most part. And, the case was made by President Obama, that in other modern countries there are just as many young men who are mentally ill, but we don’t hear about them gunning people down like they do here.

Attempts to explain the behavior of the mass shooters have relied as well on profiles, saying they are angry. Lots of people are angry. They don’t mow people down.

No, there’s something else going on. America’s culture is one of violence; the people from the Mayflower came into this new land mowing people down, specifically the Native Americans who were already here. We are a violent society. One of our core American beliefs is that the way to handle anger and to acquire and keep control of others is by and with violence. Cowboys were violent. Those who settled the West were violent. The debate over slavery was handled with a horror called the Civil War.

The answer, actually, to Dr. Martin Luther King’s campaign of non-violence, was violence. White people actually said that his non-violent campaign was inspiring and forcing violence in return.

America, with its core value of violence, is not safe. These young men, staunch supporters of the Second Amendment, are good, wholesome American citizens, with American values.

That’s what’s scary, and it’s at least one reason why America is not safe.