Tuesday, July 12, 2016

"We've Seen the Videos. The Difference Between You and Me Isn't a Matter of Error, but of Will": Guns, God, and Race in America, July 2016

Chris Lebron, New York Times

If America had decided that black lives do matter when it had the chance, the cycle of violence that has robbed us and threatens to continue to rob us of precious lives could have been broken. 
One reason the correspondence theory of truth has lost favor among professional philosophers is that we can't always rely on our senses to corroborate facts. But we've seen the videos. The difference between you and me isn't a matter of error, but of will.

Lisa Lindsey commenting at National Catholic Reporter

We know "ALL Lives Matter" but to say it distracts from the real problem that there is a significant disproportionate number of blacks killed. Someone suggested that saying "Black Lives Matter, too…" might make non-blacks feel better. I doubt it. People know that "Black Lives Matters" does NOT mean ONLY Black Lives Matter. People just don't want to deal with the issue at hand.

Unnerved by black anger, Americans like Mr. Giuliani cling to false equivalencies. They have, for example, defamed the Black Lives Matter movement as a "war on cops." (Tell that to the protesters in Dallas who smiled for photos with officers who were protecting their march.) 
The debate is full of such untruths and misdirections. There is the colossal Texas lie, the one that says a "good guy with a gun" can always stop a bad guy with a gun (in Dallas, where some marchers and bystanders were armed, it took a bomb). There is Mr. Giuliani's ludicrous suggestion that black people don't know they need to be careful around cops, or somehow are complicit in their brutalizing. Alton Sterling, in Baton Rouge, and Philando Castile, in a St. Paul suburb, were posing no threat when they were shot. (Far from being ignorant of the ways of the police, fearful black parents long ago learned to impart the advice that Mr. Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, said she gave her son: "If you get stopped by the police, comply. Comply, comply, comply.") Eric Garner, on Staten Island, was unarmed and outnumbered by the officers who swarmed and smothered him.

Abby Zimet, Common Dreams: 

Given our abundant guns, our modern-day racism, our murderous, militarized police, and the "violent and deeply unethical founding and growth of this country," Shaun King argues, Micah Johnson was "the cake that this country baked." 

In the years after the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, race in the US dropped down the news agenda, at home and abroad. But the changes won in legislation and court rulings were not matched by conditions on the ground. There were improvements for some in education and employment, but life was not visibly different for the bulk of the African-American and Latino populations. In too many major cities, segregation remained a reality. Even the capital, Washington DC, where politicians spoke grandly of freedom, equality and tolerance, remained deeply divided. It is America's dirty little secret.

Jelani Cobb, The New Yorker

This week has become a grotesque object lesson in gun culture, one that points to a conclusion that we could have and should have drawn long ago—that the surfeit of weapons at our disposal and the corresponding fears that they induce create new hazards. There is no telling how any of these specific horrors will be resolved. But here is what we do know: we live in an age of open-source terrorism. Our inability to respond to mass shootings has meant that, eventually, even law enforcement would fall victim to one. The context of the conversation about police accountability has been irrevocably changed. Black lives matter, but reports that those words were uttered by a gunman in Dallas mean that any movement under that banner may well have met its end. And realism, in the face of tragedy, tells us that there is more ugliness in the offing.

Jim Burroway, Box Turtle Bulletin

In the past ten years— Six Amish girls went to school. Six people went shopping at the mall. Thirty-two students went to college. Nine more went shopping at the mall. Six attended a meeting at City Hall. Six more students went to college. Two people went to see kids putting on a musical at church. Thirteen went to classes in an immigration center. A nurse cared for seven residents in a nursing home. Thirteen went to work at an Army base. Eight went to work at a beer distributor. Five went to a supermarket to meet their Congresswoman. Five were in an IHOP. Eight were at a hair salon. A teenager almost made it home from 7-Eleven. Three students went to high school. Seven more students went to college. Five black men were just out and about in Tulsa. Five people went for coffee. Twelve went to see a movie. Six Sikh worshipers went to pray. Five people were afraid of their co-worker. Twenty elementary school children went to school; so did six teachers. Three went to cheer on the runners; one police officer guarded a campus and another gave chase. Thirteen people went to work at a Navy Yard. One young man heard voices. One man sold loose cigarettes. Another was buying a toy BB gun. Another shoplifted a box of Swisher Sweets. One young man saw visions. So did another. A woman was disoriented and delusional: sometimes she couldn’t stop turning on and off the lights. One man was going down a stairwell. A twelve-year-old played in the park. Two police officers sat in their patrol car. One young man reached for a pill bottle. Another took pills and saw visions. Another was naked. Another was “screaming and yelling,” and that was before he was mauled by a police dog. One man ran away. Another rode a bicycle. Nine people studied the Bible. Four went to work at an Armed Forces recruitment office; another went on duty at the Navy Reserve. A woman failed to use her turn signal. Fourteen people attended an office party. Three Muslim men were at home. Eight family members slept. Forty-nine people danced. A man sold CDs. Another had a broken tail light. And five police officers were protecting a friendly, peaceful protest. Ora pro nobis. 

Emilie M. Townes, Religion Dispatches

Due process at the end of a gun barrel will not get us to the country and world we want. Neither will disregarding lives because we have bought into a fantastic hegemonic imagination that tells us that people are dangerous and an ominous threat if we do not know or understand them—so best to shoot first and not be held accountable later. It causes the anger and despair of watching folks get killed over and over again and deciding that the only response is to take up a gun and begin killing police officers as a warped retributive justice. 
We must stop and look at ourselves—all of us. Take an account of how we sanction or contribute to the madness that has overtaken us—a calculating, hoarding madness that fails to take in the complexity of this nation and our world. The rising death toll and the classism, sexism, racism, heterosexist, trans-sexism, militarism, and more that fuel this disregard for human lives will not stop the violence until we decide to stop them and then act to make it so.

Angie Maxwell, Vox: 

 [T]he Southern Tea Party is a different beast from the Northern Tea Party. Our most striking finding in that 2012 data is that racism significantly predicts Tea Party membership in the South — and not just any kind of racism but "old-fashioned racism." A high old-fashioned racism score means a respondent is willing to say on a survey that African Americans are lazy, untrustworthy, and unintelligent on a 7-point scale (meaning there is plenty of room for neutrality, room to hide one's views). 
Given today's social norms, only the most defiant, the most willing to embrace racial stereotypes, will admit such prejudice, so researchers had in recent years largely abandoned such questions in favor of subtler measures of racial resentment (including, for instance, a strong denial of institutional racism). But anti-Obama sentiment among whites has brought old-fashioned racism back into the public arena, and the Tea Party in the South gave it a home."

Michael Winship, Moyers Blog

George Wallace’s own daughter, Peggy Wallace Kennedy, recently told National Public Radio that both men have played to our basest instincts. "Trump and my father say out loud what people are thinking but don’t have the courage to say," she said. "They both were able to adopt the notion that fear and hate are the two greatest motivators of voters that feel alienated from government." 

Anthony Annett, Commonweal:

What's clear is that the US gun movement has become a movement centered around white identity. Studies do show a correlation between gun zealotry and white racial resentment. It is no surprise that gun crackdowns tend to come in response to black men owning and wielding firearms. It is no surprise that both gun sales and pro-gun rhetoric rose dramatically upon the election of Barack Obama. And it is no surprise that the NRA gets uncharacteristically tongue-tied when a black man is killed by police for carrying a legal firearm. 
Part of this is straightforward: if you refuse to accept a whole race as full and equal members of the community, and you are habituated by centuries of racism to think of this race as particularly prone to violence and criminality, then arming yourself doesn't seem too strange. And because you don't feel like you belong to a shared community, you are more willing to tolerate the destruction of black lives that comes from the toxic admixture of a mountain of guns combined with a deep legacy of institutional racism and social exclusion. 
But there's more to it. It is now abundantly clear that owning and brandishing a legal gun is something a white person can do with impunity, but a black person cannot. The tragic death of Philandro Castile really brings this home. As does the well-document different reactions to white men and black men who "open carry" in the same area. Thus guns become a way of displaying racial superiority, especially at a time when more "traditional" displays are no longer an option. 
Guns therefore seem to serve a two-fold purpose for white identity—modulating fear and magnifying privilege. The answer is course is to end both racism and the scourge of guns.

(Annett unfortunately overlooks the other significant root of the fixation of U.S. culture on guns and more guns: toxic masculinity. As I've said over and over again here and have no option except to keep repeating, Catholic liberals remain troublingly oblivious to the significant heterosexism of Catholic institutions, which gives unmerited power and privilege to heterosexual males. As a result, their contributions to important cultural discussions linking toxic masculinity to violence [and racism] remain weak, muted.)

Rachel Maddow at Maddow Blog:

Charles Pierce, Esquire

To those of us who are of a certain age, the psychic signposts of Thursday night in Dallas marked a vaguely remembered route to hell. Snipers in buildings. The wounded being rushed to Parkland Hospital, for pity's sake. And when Don Lemon of CNN made the curious observation that the streets of Dallas seemed an unlikely venue for murderous gunplay, those of us who are of a certain age thought he was out of his mind. 
After all, it was murderous gunplay in the streets of Dallas that was the first inkling many of us of the post-war suburban generation had that, yes, the world could go out of its mind.

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