Guns and the politics of race

By Alan Bean

The verdict in the Michael Dunn trial would be maddening and mystifying were it not for a Florida law composed with guys like Michael Dunn in mind.

The legislators (and their NRA buddies) behind the Floridian incarnation of the Stand Your Ground concept weren’t exactly advocating that white middle aged men who are offended by loud music should reach for the weapon in the glove compartment and start firing.  Nor did they anticipate that a self-appointed vigilante like George Zimmerman would fondle his firearm, leave his car, and confront an unarmed kid in a hoodie who looked “suspicious”.

But these laws are a proxy for white resentment.  They were written for white people who feel threatened by black people, particularly young black males.  The law doesn’t explicitly say that, of course, but this stuff isn’t subtle.

Here in the Lone Star State, Greg Abbott, the man who would be king of Texas, is running for the state’s highest office with Ted Nugent at his side.  This is the same Ted Nugent who famously called Barack Obama a “subhuman mongrel.”  Mr. Abbot thinks it’s okay to talk that way about the president because “I don’t think there is anybody in the state that is disliked more than Barack Obama.”

A couple of things.  

First, since Barack Obama is wildly popular among the non-white residents of Texas, it is safe to assume that, when Greg Abbott talks about public sentiment, he is only talking about, and to, white people.

Second, when you stump with a burned out rock star famous for brandishing automatic weapons and making abusive, obscene, racist and misogynistic statements on a routine basis, you must believe that the white folks you are targeting will be impressed by the guy.  That, Mr. Abbott, is an insult to the white citizens of Texas.

Unfortunately, Abbott’s likely Democratic opponent also feels obligated to bow and scrape before the gun lobby.  Over the weekend, Wendy Davis came out in favor of open carry laws that would allow any citizen who has taken a quick course in gun safety to openly carry a firearm.

Greg Abbott accuses his opponent of being wishy-washy on the 2nd amendment because she also avers that churches, schools and businesses should reserve the right to bar guns from the buildings they control.  Abbott, apparently, thinks Texans should be free to pack heat wherever they go whether the preacher, the principal or the business owner like it or not.

Does Wendy Davis not realize that gun politics is a thinly disguised substitute for racial politics?  White Americans, for reasons I have never quite fathomed, feel more comfortable around non-white Americans if they are carrying a gun and the law allows them to use it without restraint.  The soaring popularity of the NRA in the wake of the election of America’s first black president makes perfect sense only if guns and race are closely associated.

I’m afraid I am still too Canadian to understand any of this, but I fear it is true.

I have spent the past few days at the Samuel Dewitt Proctor conference in Dallas, an event that brings African American pastors, scholars and seminarians together for several days of preaching, teaching and conversation.  The men and women I have been listening to this week have no illusions about the toxic link between gun  politics and racial bigotry.  No one is saying that gun enthusiasts shouldn’t be free to defend the 2nd amendment; it’s the way the right to bear arms is defended that bothers them.

I have pasted this post from the Boeskool Blog below because it was written by a white guy who, like me, comes to the murder of Jordan Davis without a lot of background information.  He has done some digging and turned up five things about this story that you probably didn’t know (unless, like most black Americans, you were paying close attention).  Boeskool notes, correctly, that white people generally reserve their most candid comments about race for all-white social situations.  Therefore, it is the responsibility of white people, especially those of us who affirm the lordship of Jesus Christ, to call racism by its proper name.

5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About The Killing of the Black Teen in Florida

So you’ve probably already heard: Another unarmed black teenager was shot to death in Florida, and the man who shot and killed him once again went unconvicted of the murder. And once again, just like in Trayvon Martin’s murder that went unpunished by a Florida jury almost two years ago now, a law called “Stand Your Ground” comes into play. This law basically makes it legal to shoot someone if you happen to feel threatened. For example, if you are carrying a gun, and you chase after a kid who is armed with an iced tea and a bag of Skittles, and then that scared kid hits you to get you to stop chasing him, you are legally allowed to shoot that kid in the chest and end his life. Or, if an unarmed kid is in a car playing music too loud at a gas station, you ask him to stop, and he refuses, you are allowed to say you thought he had a gun or a lead pipe, felt like your life was threatened, and shoot him through his car door (as well as his liver and aorta) and end his life.

Truth from Pulitzer Prize winning Cartoonist Jim Morin of the Miami Herald

Truth from Pulitzer Prize winning Cartoonist Jim Morin of the Miami Herald

All justice is not gone from the world, however, as Michael Dunn (the 47 year old white man who pulled his handgun out of the glove box of his car and fired it at four black teenagers listening to some loud rap music) was convicted of four other felonies, including attempted murder of the three friends. Luckily, it is not yet legal in Florida to fire four more shots at an SUV whose occupants are fleeing for their lives as it drives away…. YET.

Here are some things that you probably don’t know about this case:

His name is Jordan Davis, and he deserves better.

His name is Jordan Davis, and he deserves better.

1) THE KID’S NAME. His name isJordan Davis. His middle name in Russell. For some reason, all of the headlines of the stories about this tragedy all seem to refer to him as “black teen.” When Trayvon Martin was murdered, EVERYONE knew his name. Maybe it’s because there was no confusing someone with the name “Trayvon” with a white kid. Maybe Jordan Davis sounds too…. “normal?” I don’t know. But when I sat down to write about this, I’m sad to say I couldn’t remember his name. I had to Google “black teen shot in Florida” to remember it. But he has a name, and it is Jordan Davis. He was someone’s child. His mom’s name is Lucia McBath, and his dad’s name is Ron Davis, and they loved him just like I love my kids. Their boy’s name is not “black teen.” His name is Jordan Davis, and this past Sunday would have been Jordan’s 19th birthday.

Michael Dunn, demonstrating how a person "stands his ground" against an unarmed teenager.

Michael Dunn, demonstrating how a person “stands his ground” against an unarmed teen.

2) JUST HOW MUCH RACE PLAYED A ROLE IN THIS MURDER. Micheal Dunn is a sad, scared, racist man. Before he peppered the boys’ car with bullets and ended the life of Jordan Davis for playing his music too loud, Dunn said to his girlfriend, “I hate that thug music.” Now, just in case you didn’t know, “thug” is just the new code for the word “nigger.” If you use the word “thug” to refer to a person with brown skin, you’re not hiding your racism from anyone. We can all see it. And it’s really, really gross.If you hear someone use the word “thug” to describe another person, ask them what they mean when they say that…. And then watch them squirm with appropriate shame.

If this is a thug, I pray my son might someday be such a thug.

2nd in his high school class, graduated with honors from Stanford with a Master’s degree…. If this is a thug, I pray my son might someday grow up to be such a thug.

3) I’M NOT KIDDING. MICHAEL DUNN IS REALLY, REALLY RACIST. Some of you might be thinking, “Calling someone a thug does not mean you’re racist.” First of all, yes, it does. Secondly, here are some more Micheal Dunn quotes: In letters and phone calls from jail, he said (in reference to African Americans), “The more time I am exposed to these people, the more prejudiced against them I become.” On a phone call he spoke about being in a cell by himself, and said, “But I guess it would be better than being in a room with them animals.” And in a letter to his daughter, he wrote, “This jail is full of blacks and they all act like thugs…. This may sound a bit radical, but if more people would arm themselves and kill these fucking idiots when they’re threatening you, eventually they may take the hint and change their behavior.” Add to that a letter to his grandmother that said,“I’m not really prejudiced against race, but I have no use for certain cultures. This gangster-rap, ghetto talking thug ‘culture’ that certain segments of society flock to is intolerable.”

Imagine having a child who looks like Trayvon Martin or Jordan Davis. How safe would you feel?

Imagine having a child who looks like Trayvon Martin or Jordan Davis. How safe would you feel?

As an aside, I cannot explain to you just how prevalent this sort of thinking still is among white people: This idea of “I’ve got nothing against black people. It’s thugs (read: niggers) that I hate.” And the thinking behind that idea is that “I’m fine with people whose skin is a different color, as long as they dress, speak, sound, and act just like me. And as long as they know their place….” I hear this sentiment all the time. It’s the sort of thing that white people only say to other white people, so it’s up to white people to call them on it. This sort of thinking is the stubborn root of a weed of demented, rationalized racism that gets passed along one generation to the next, and IT IS NOT OKAY. It needs to come out root and all, or it will pop up again later.

4) THE KILLER COMPARED HIMSELF TO A RAPE VICTIM. This should give you all the insight into this dude’s mind that you need. In a call to his girlfriend, he said, “[I]t made me think of like the old TV shows and movies where like how the police used to think when a chick got raped going, “Oh, it’s her fault because of the way she dressed.” I’m like, “So it’s my fault (as he laughs) because I asked them to turn their music down. I got attacked and I fought back because I didn’t want to be a victim and now I’m in trouble. I refused to be a victim and now I’m incarcerated.” Later on he said, “I was the one who was victimized … I’m the victor, but I was the victim too.” And you know what? I have no doubt that Michael Dunn actually believes this.

More good cartoon truth, this time from Andy Winters

More good cartoon truth, this time from Andy Winters.

And 5) UNDER THE “STAND YOUR GROUND” LAW, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN COMPLETELY LEGAL FOR JORDAN DAVIS TO SHOOT MICHAEL DUNN. This “Stand Your Ground” law is a steaming pile of crap. Of course Michael Dunn felt threatened by the young black teenagers in that SUV playing loud rap music! I’d bet he believes that sort of behavior is about as threatening to his way of life as things get. He probably had just those sorts of people in mind when he purchased that handgun. But here’s the lunacy of the law (that, by the way, is also law in 23 other states): If Jordan Davis was armed and would have seen Michael Dunn pull out that handgun from his glove box (for feeling threatened), he should have legally been able to put a bullet through Michael Dunn’s liver and aorta. This law essentially makes it legal to kill people. Ifthe NRA lobbyists who wrote this law have their way and everyone is walking around packing heat, people might start feeling “threatened” all over the place…. Though, I doubt that the NRA is lobbying very hard to get guns in the hands of anymore “thugs.”

2 thoughts on “Guns and the politics of race

  1. While people argue about the right and wrong of these shootings; black males simply say “that could be me”.

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