"Wait, what? I thought this was a blog about gun violence - I don't want to read about racism. One thing at a time!"
So, the thing is: racism plays a huge part in gun violence. Unfortunately, the big headlines that blare about mass shootings tend to skip this part of the issue, so many of us are unaware of how much black communities are effected. Even I - someone who has experienced gun violence and been tuned into the gun issue for a long time - knew nothing about it.
According to a study in the Washington Post, black Americans are twice as likely to die from gun violence than white Americans. In both Illinois and New Jersey (hey, friends!) the stat is higher: over four times as likely. I've learned that people of color worry that someone’s going to be randomly violently racist against them when they’re just going about their business, that they (rightly) fear the cops, and that a large percentage of them live in unsafe neighborhoods or are even forced into gang culture.
The sad fact is that if we don't know or care about racism, it's probably because we're lucky and we're not paying enough attention. As Rachel E. Cargle once said:
“You cannot have empathy for what you don’t know.”
Wait, who is Rachel E. Cargle? She's an eloquent, young anthropologist and activist who spent an evening in a quaint hotel in Manhattan verbally slapping me in the face with my own privilege (ouch). She shared stories of black people both in history and present day who have had to fear for their lives because of ludicrous discrimination. I wish I could brain dump all of the horrifying genius she threw at us, but suffice it to say that to feel a taste of that weight, you should just start paying attention.
“Why do white people get to be the default of existence?”
She challenged our ignorance and advised us to tune in and talk about it - especially with people we know won’t agree with us. She said that we need to quit voting racists into office (some might be quieter racists than our president, so do your pre-election homework) and that we can't let casual racial conversation happen around us and silently sit by. Even if we're not the ones saying the words, being passive means that we are consenting and thereby participating.
“You need to go agitate - that’s your job.”
I confess that I don’t have much (any?) experience standing up against racism. I have only just found my voice in standing up in gun violence conversations in the past few months, so hopefully this is something that I can work on. You probably can too. If it doesn't seem like an immediate problem at the outset, consider that your involvement could literally be life-saving.
“I don’t need you to march if you’re not saying something at the dinner table."
Making a difference is a process and learning is the first step. Start with some reading material:
Read about racist calls to 911, like the woman who called after a black boy’s backpack brushed up against her, or the guys who just sat down at a table at Starbucks. Reading about injustices like this makes them real and speaking up against them if you witness them makes you part of the solution.
Learn what intersectionality is. Talk about what intersectionality is at your next coffee date... and don't be afraid to be loud so that the next table over can hear you.
For more, follow Rachel E. Cargle and Jai Patel. Rachel has built an amazing platform on speaking out against racism and Jai has spoken out publicly on the issues of race and gang violence within gun violence.
Not convinced this is a problem? If you'd like to report a black person for harassment, call Niecy Nash at 1-844-WYT-FEAR.