Guns and Race in the U.S.

A few weeks ago I learned about two horrible incidents involving young black motorists being shot to death that really riled me up.  You can read about both here and here.

Now most media outlets are playing up the race angle and there is no denying that neither of these incidents would have occurred if the motorist were white.  In both cases one of the participants claimed that they though the black motorist was a burglar.  This presumption cascades a series of events that led to the death of these young black people.  This presumption was based on the fact, and only on the fact, that they were black.  In both tragedies the black person knocked on the door (cue jokes about polite burglars).  If a white person is knocking on your door most people don’t jump to suspected burglary, but apparently if they are black you do.

However, while a less racist population might have avoided the bloody end of both incidents, the real culprit here is the rampant gun culture in the U.S.A.  Only here would someone answer the door with a gun at the ready.  Only here would a cop’s first reaction be to draw his firearm and unload on an unarmed man, shooting him not once to maybe disable him, but ten times.

I believe the man in Detroit really did accidentally fire upon the young woman as the alternative is that we live in a society where people gun down innocents on their front porch.  That still raises the question why he had it aimed at her, especially since a maxim of firearm safety is to only point them at things you intend to shoot.

I am willing to call the Detroit case a terrible accident.  Far worse is the cop that fired upon a man in a situation where he was barely threatening.  Even our poorly trained police officers should know a number of deterrence strategies other than pumping someone full of lead.  While North Carolina has a habit of letting their cops get away with some dubious killings, at least in this case they are going after the shooter with haste.

This just feeds into a growing resentment I have toward the abuses of power perpetrated by our protectors of law and order.  Between shootings like this happening all over the place (Florida and North Carolina seem the worst), the must read piece on civil forfeiture in the New Yorker, stop and frisk in New York and if you want to go bigger, NSA spying, at time it feels like the biggest threat to an American citizen’s civil liberties is from those charged to protect them.

The crime waves of the 80s and the subsequent decay of violence that took place over the last two decades seem to have allayed a natural suspicion towards the police that had built up during the Civil Rights Era.  I feel as though we have given police forces the credit for this crime drop which seems particularly dubious and still does not excuse the kind of abusive tactics that keep making headlines.  I consider myself a trusting guy, so I don’t want to say this, but the police are never your friend, even if you are a white male.  We inculcate in our police force a paranoia and animosity towards everyone and we have to be sure that we keep our vicious, if useful, dog appropriately leashed.

Before I end this post I want to comment more on the presumption that a black person is a burglar.  A lot of people harbor under this delusion that every black person is a violent criminal and that you should be appropriately wary at all times around black men in particular.  This is a gross misinterpretation of the statistics that say that black men are far more likely to commit a violent crime.  The vast majority of black men are not violent criminals.  In fact the irony is that white people are far more likely to be killed by another white person (4-6 times) and that a white person is more likely to murder a black person than vice versa (3 times).  Because you see, the real scourge here is black men committing violence against other black people.  Inevitably, news and comment boards are full of white people defending their blanket mistrust of black people, when it should be other black people that are deathly afraid of every black man they encounter.

Then of course there is the insanity of living a paranoid existence predicated on events that are far less likely than lets say dying in a traffic accident.  So racists you keep a vigilant eye on every black person while you blithely drive around in your motorized death trap.  I will be here enjoying a life where every glance upon a fellow human being is not followed by an analysis about whether they are going to kill me and take my stuff.


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