Gregory Paul: "Walking Black in the Land of Have Gun Will Shoot"
As the Trayvon Martin trial indicated, in the United States, the relationship between deregulated gun ownership and everyday racism is not a simple one, especially in states with Stand Your Ground laws that are enforced differentially in the courts. In the terms used here by Gregory Paul, "A black American cannot use his gun the same way a white can and expect the same level of legal safety. Stand your ground laws are far from equal opportunity. Gun friendly laws are largely designed by conservative whites who at best are too patronizing to care about what the black majority wants, and at worse suits the purposes of white conservatives. African Americans at very high risk from guns - from guns being used against them, and from the legal consequences of using guns in ways whites can get away with. Zimmerman had the right to not retreat, Martin got killed for not retreating."
- ESJRR Editor
Gregory Paul: "Walking Black in the Land of Have Gun Will Shoot"
There is something very wrong with America. Actually there is a lot seriously wrong with America. Many Americans, conservatives most of all, are still fantasizing that the United States is such a special and exceptional place that it remains the envy of the rest of the world. That’s a fantasy, because the US is a second world nation, a rigid class society with little in the way of upward social mobility for the poor or the declining middle class, extreme income disparity, tremendous debt loads, deep poverty, levels of juvenile and adult mortality, STD infections, abortion, teen pregnancies, divorces, illicit drug use, education achievement and incarceration. Other first world countries are doing better, often a lot better, than America.
And here is another item that makes America exceptional. It is the only “advanced” democracy in which a citizen can play amateur cop by wandering about the landscape legally armed with a rapid fire weapon of mass destruction, and, upon seeing a teen who is not conducting the slightest bit of illegal activity, but who looks “suspicious” because he belongs to one of the two ethnic classes that has been the most and horrifically abused over centuries by those of European origin - African Americans and AmerIndians - can target said teen as needing to be dealt with, and after being told by the authorities to do what any competent cop would do -- not approach the “suspect” without professional backup -- does the stupid thing, and ends up killing the gunless teenager after some altercation that would not have happened if the killer had not been a reckless fool who failed to follow common sense instructions, and get away with it because the laws of most states have been rigged by the gun lobby and the fanatical gun lovers to favor those who settle disputes by eliminating the person who did not have a firearm on them.
No other Western nation is so asinine. In truly modern countries gun laws are more restrictive, so that the civilians are not roving hither and yon with semi-automatics, and the law requires that people avoid rather than produce Stand Your Ground situations. The result of these intelligent policies? They all have levels of homicide far below what our “Shining City on a Hill” shamefully suffers from. The USA has the highest level of gun ownership in the world, well above that seen in any other western democracy. Every single country with comparably high gun ownership has high rates of homicide - you would think folks would figure out the connection. The only known way to keep murder rare is to set things up so that only a small or modest minority of the population owns guns, mainly for sporting purposes, not for self-protection. Security is then provided by the police, which they do well in the rest of the west, where people hardly ever get killed by fellow citizens.
Americans should be afraid. Of the gun toters. The gun lobby and fanatics want us to think that the law abiding civilian packing heat is a source of safety and security for those around him. Zimmerman shows otherwise. So do a rising number of cases in which citizens legally owning and carrying guns are going ballistic and settling disputes with their weaponry. It is not at all surprising. Scientific studies have long shown that firearms are more likely to result in the grievous wounding or death of the owner or those around him, than in the scarcer thwarting of a criminal act that the gun lovers love to tout. The reason for this is obvious. The law abiding gunman is a human being like the rest of us, subject to losing their control and cool under pressure and resorting to the hyperlethal gun to deal with the situation. It’s basic psychology and common sense.
Do not, therefore, trust your heat packing fellow human beings. Not because they are “bad” people scheming to commit crimes, but because they are all too human, and even good humans can and sometimes do make dreadful mistakes. You don’t want to be around when they do.
Especially if you are black. Racism remains entrenched within the white, conservative gun culture. Not the incredibly virulent hyperracism that was matter of course in much of the nation until a few decades ago, but a more subtle variety that can still be as deadly as it is perverse. It is the Ann Coulter/FoxNews view that racism is over and that blacks should get over it, and minorities are the real source of trouble anyway. Surveys show that conservative whites hold more racist opinions about blacks, such as opposition to interracial marriage. So Zimmerman, a rash, callous, spineless man whose endless 911 calls targeted blacks but no whites and who got away with killing a black teen who had been minding his own business, has become a hero of conservatives and gun adorers who could care less about the black reaction to the killing and the verdict. A verdict – from a small jury of whites that appear to have little clue of the black situation -- that has given white gunners considerable license to kill noncompliant blacks, but not blacks the same dispensation to kill whites.
Blacks are not going to get over a past that few whites even know about much less acknowledge. All the more so when blacks never have had truly equal rights. Every couple of weeks from the late 1800s to the second world war a black or two was obscenely tortured to death in public lynching spectacles attended by crowds of enthusiastic Christian whites (as described in excruciating detail in Philip Dray’s At the Hands of Persons Unknown). Blacks continue to be mass prosecuted and jailed for crimes that whites receive far less punishment for (Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness). Had Z been black and M white, then there is no way that Z would have targeted and pursued M. Had a black Z killed a white M under exactly the same circumstances that happened the evening of 2/26/2012, then Z would have been quickly arrested and then convicted of homicide and be in prison for decades. The real Z is thinking about becoming a lawyer.
A black American cannot use his gun the same way a white can and expect the same level of legal safety. Stand your ground laws are far from equal opportunity. Gun friendly laws are largely designed by conservative whites who at best are too patronizing to care about what the black majority wants, and at worse suits the purposes of white conservatives. African Americans at very high risk from guns - from guns being used against them, and from the legal consequences of using guns in ways whites can get away with. Zimmerman had the right to not retreat, Martin got killed for not retreating. When Florida resident Marissa Alexander fired a round towards but not at her abusive husband the black woman got 20 years for not hitting anybody, Zimmerman got nada for executing a black. For the latter gun rights are a sick and deadly joke. Hal Sparks pointed out this Weds that stand your ground is a legal means of snuffing the witness. Especially the black witness.
On the positive side, the Republican inability to stop slapping minorities in their faces is demographic idiocy. The sensible conservatives get this but cannot stop the arrogant dissing of minorities because the wacky hard right cannot help but be the wacky hard right. As per Ann Coulter denouncing idiotic liberals in Mugged (get it – “mugged”) as the real racists while she offends blacks who are largely liberal. As per how the celebration of Zimmerman getting no criminal penalty for killing a black kid is electoral inanity that further shrinks what was the party of the now spinning-in-his-grave Lincoln to its 21st century bastion of the southern whites that make up the party majority in a nation where the white cohort is waning.
Where progressives are making a big mistake is in not pounding home the message of how all other prosperous democracies are successfully minimizing homicides while aborting the stupidity of the Zimmerman types. The one and only way America can similarly solve its chronic homicide problem is for the US to become a truly advanced 1st world nation with extensive gun safety laws that limit ownership they way it is done in all countries with low homicide rates. That will go a long way to solve the gun and murder problems for blacks as well as whites.