Another School Killing Spree

At the intersection of 2nd Amendment Rights and our history of violence.

by Katherine HawkerSelf

The news of the day offers two intimately related but disparate pieces. One is another mass shooting, a white guy on a murdering spree in Oregon. The other is the announcement that St. Louis surpassed Detroit in homicides last year earning the infamous title "murder city".

In the wake of another mass shooting, another white guy with guns blazing, the President issued strong words about gun control. We white moms will cluck, the NRA will strut, and not one significant piece of legislation will pass. If our communal conscience was moveable on this issue, we would have seen massive changes after the unimaginable horror at Sandy Hook. Clearly we are stuck.

As social media meme's point out other so-called civilized (read: white Eurocentric) nations who have banned citizenry weaponry and live without the constancy of gun violence, I think we're missing an important conversation about our gun attitudes, particularly as white folk. Our nation has a unique history with both the obliteration of the first peoples of this land then the trading in human lives to build this nation; and with this history comes particular (and deadly) attitudes about weaponry. We must pause to look at not only our attitudes, but the biases that create them, because our public polices are utterly nonsensical.

Consider that our "right to bear arms" was written into our constitution not to protect vigilantism (much less mass shooters) but rather to the felt need to be able to offer communal uprising in the face of oppressive government. A Second Amendment use of arms would be if the folk under militaristic police siege met the state with rightfully owned weapons. While I am not ready to disavow my commitment to pacifism, after what I experienced at ‪#‎PageandWalton‬ on August 19, I have a clearer understanding of the original intent of the famed Second Amendment. The people must have some recourse when governments go rogue. Important to watch is that this self-defense against the state is NOT what the NRA-style gun support is touting. These same gun enthusiasts have offered zero support for the citizens who are in the street facing off (unarmed) against militarized police forces. So leave your Constitutional jargon aside, I'm not fooled.

Our (white) American passion for guns is something different entirely and I suspect is rooted as deep as the white supremacy woven into in our nation's founding. In order to take land that was already inhabited, force was necessary. In order to keep human beings in bondage to create the capital that is America, armed force was necessary. In order to maintain the status quo in a system of unparalleled disparities of wealth and poverty, we have entered a terrifying world of mass incarceration that relies on, yes, weaponry (and force).

At face value, this historic pattern of state sanctioned violence has nothing to do with mass shooters let alone stray bullets in neighborhood shoot-outs. Yet to understand the intractable hold our gun-devotion has in America, the kind of gun-devotion that makes possible the continual waves of violence we see in our nation, we must look deeper into what drives our devotion. Our dependence on armed force is our commitment to enforce white supremacy.

And it is killing us.

It’s destroying the souls of young white men who feel so deeply cheated when the myth of their superiority is challenged. While we've not had the courage to have honest conversations about why the mass shooters are almost exclusively young white men, the age and race of the shooters (all of them) is an open secret. Its the elephant who's waste we stand in but whose presence we deny. There is no denying that something is happening to white boys in America, and white mothers need to find the courage to talk about it. (White dads too, but I am a mom; I'll let you all have your own conversations.)

Meanwhile in the face of economic embargo, denied access to education, the constancy of police violence, and (yes) hunger, we have seen a spike in homicides in St. Louis. I live in a white corner of the City where I can drive with a broken headlight for nearly a year without getting stopped, I have a living wage job and so does my spouse, my kids went to so-called "Blue Ribbon schools" and then off to college. I cannot, I will not, pretend to stand in judgment of the young man just a few blocks away who was born in an unlucky zip code. What I will note is that the constancy of the state violence has done a number on my heart and head. Where I used to fear guns, I now actually consider the option. While I continue to choose to espouse pacifism, I am aware that such a position is born in privilege and limited. I grieve each homicide, I condone no killing, but I am keenly aware that there is a context not reported.

And the context for the homicides in St. Louis is the poisoned ground of white supremacy. It's the same poisoned earth that produces the strange fruit of mass shooters.

Finally we are back where we began. Guns and violence in America emerge from the toxic soil that is our nation's original sin. Unless and until we are willing to face not only our historic, but also our contemporary policies and attitudes of white supremacy, our new normal will be these deeply disturbing headlines.

But then there is nothing new about the headlines.

Nor is there anything new about our clucking.

If you happen to be a white person still reading along, I suspect that what might be new is a fissure of openness to face this elephant in the room. For this much, I am grateful.

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