Race, Gun Violence and Our Social Contract

[The following was posted by Alec Dubro today on his Facebook feed. He was responding to a news report about gun deaths in Chicago over the weekend].


While the nation was transfixed by the Isla Vista mass killings, in Chicago the past weekend left three dead and seven more shot and injured. Ho-hum. Seriously, are these victims any less dead? Granted they didn't have the golden chances at life as did Rodger's victims, but now they have none. They're families are in pain just as those in California. But those in Chicago are the norm, and those in Isla Vista are not. 

Mass killing account for less than one percent of all gun murders. The vast majority are done one or two at a time and in less salubrious settings. 

The trouble is, most of us see little or no connection between outbursts by young white men and the steady drumbeat of murders in the African American community. But they are tightly and historically linked. The only significant difference between gun-sodden Canada and gun-sodden U.S. is the history of slavery and its aftermath. They shoot moose; we shoot each other. Although the targets of mass shooters may not be black, the fear, and the obsession with guns, is historically linked to fear of blacks. 

So how does that provoke black-on-black murders? Well, African Americans live in the same country, have access to the same weapons and are part of the same culture. Fear is pervasive and violence as a remedy is widespread. 

We can't stop gun violence by focusing only on the theatrical mass murders. They're of a much larger part. Nor is it a matter of mental illness, or guns alone or police awareness. It's our deeply rooted social contract and the relationships between carefully constructed racial castes, men and women, rich and not-rich. It's about power and privilege and a deep thread of perennially adolescent fixation on weaponry.

So, what do we do when we've finished singing the songs and lighting the candles and leaving flowers and saying "never again"? You tell me.