What Makes A Tragedy?
After the shooting at Newtown there have been a number of conversations about a number of things. Among the conversations there appear to be a few things that people can agree on. We’re hearing a lot of the same words; “tragedy, horrible, heinous, innocent victims, never again, this time it feels different.” And that’s good. It’s good that people are finally coming to care about the epidemic of gun violence in America. It’s good that maybe we will be able to do something, some small thing, to save lives.
There are four reasons that the Sandy Hook shooting is getting so much media attention.
- Proximity – Newtown, Connecticut is very close to New York City. NYC is, of course a major news market. Journalists are not immune to self centeredness by any means. It matters to them because it is close to them.
- Numbers – Often when a large number of people are killed or wounded in one very small location in a very short period of time, other people notice.
- Age – Most of the victims were grade-schoolers. Given our cultural belief that children are innocent, the victims last Friday are safe to identify with.
- Race – Most of the victims were white.
All of these things combine to make this a meaningful event that will have an impact on our nation. But it’s also kind of hard to watch. Why? Because it’s another way in which our nation tells People of Color we have no value.
On March 12, a 2-year-old boy was accidentally shot in the hip as two men argued outside a home. A 6-year-old boy was shot with an AK47 during an attempted carjacking on Feb 26. On Feb 20, a 9-month-old boy was killed in a hail of gunfire, reportedly in a skirmish about seating at a baby shower. And a 12-year-old girl was shot and killed on Jan. 31 following a fight involving her mother over a mobile phone.
All of this happened in one city, in one six month period. In that same city last year, 16 people were shot and 7 died over the course of 48 hours. Yet, unless you live in Detroit you never heard of these incidents. Do you know why? Because the victims were largely black and brown.
Gun violence has been destroying PoC for over a generation. We are 6 times more likely to die by gun violence than Caucasians. And for that entire time, no one has cared enough to act.
When black and brown children die there are no large scale memorials, no days of news coverage, no legislative response.
When PoC, even children, die, we are blamed, called thugs and accused of bringing our deaths upon ourselves. The parents of these dead children are subjected to not only interrogations about what they, the parents, did wrong in allowing their child to be victimized but expected to be understanding of and accept the false belief that their child was a threat by nature of their race.
When black and brown children die even the most rational, miniscule movement toward action is met with howls of derision Not only is nothing done, states make it clear that the deaths of these children are perfectly acceptable.
Killers are viewed differently depending on their race as well.
When a Muslim kills people, the first assumption is that they were a religious fanatic. You’ll see those people who make their living hating Muslims sprint toward any camera and/or microphone that will stand still long enough for them to scream at, in an effort to display their ignorance and hate. Those people are easy to ignore but you will also see otherwise rational people questioning what, if any, responsibility Islam played in the violence.
When a PoC kills someone, there are seldom questions about motivation. It is assumed and that assumption is that the PoC is a thug or a gang member or just naturally violent, because you know, niggers are violent. If you don’t believe me, search out the comments section of any crgroup of articles on any act of violence wherein the perpetrator is a PoC. Count how many times references to “nature,” (as in “PoC are violent by nature,”) animals, thugs, and keeping the “innocent” safe, you find. It seems “the innocent,” are always Caucasians.
When a Caucasian kills someone, the conversation immediately turns to mental illness, because when a Caucasian commits an act like this, it cannot have been their fault. They must have been mentally ill and that mental illness is to blame. While Caucasians are more statistically likely to commit crime, especially violent crimes against other Caucasians, it is PoC who are seen as dangerous.
Even after arrest PoC and Caucasians are treated differently. A black teen involved in a fist fight? Held without bond.
George Zimmerman, who stalked and killed an unarmed boy?
He is required to continue GPS monitoring and stay in Seminole County, FL. He must also check in with the Pre-Trial Release Department every 48 hours, obey a curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., refrain from drinking alcohol and keep away from the Orlando-Sanford International Airport.
He is also forbidden from “open[ing] or maintain[ing] a bank account.”
They’ve done everything in their power to make sure he can’t leave the country. But he is still allowed access to a gun.
Lately, the drum beat seems to be that we must eliminate “guns that are only designed to kill.” Let me school you up here, people. All guns are only designed to kill. That’s what guns are for. It’s why they were invented, not hunting, not sport. Killing other humans. Guns used for hunting? Still deadly to humans. Guns used for “sport” which most of us would call handguns? Still deadly to humans.
The guns that may be restricted? They will be the guns that are least often used to kill people in America, assault weapons. They do happen to be the guns most often used to kill large groups of white people at once. But the most dangerous guns, the guns the have been killing huge numbers of PoC for a decade or more? Handguns? They are still fine. Because Caucasians need them for self defense. Who are they defending against? The perception is, PoC.
That knowledge is hurtful but not surprising. All PoC know that our nation cares less about us, that we have less value than Caucasians. That fact is one of the many sad truths you learn growing up not-White in America. It’s one of the many coals that sear you along the path, but to hear it so blatantly stated over and over again? Even worse, to hear it stated by people who should know better? (I’m looking at you, every single Democrat in Congress and you, every journalist on the planet) To hear it from people I respect, who clearly aren’t even thinking about the way in which they so blatantly value Caucasian lives over those of PoC?
This is not one of the coals that is just hotter than the others. This is one of the coals that is thrown at our damn heads.