Gun violence in the U.S. has once again made devastating headlines, with a white supremacist killing 10 Black people in a supermarket in Buffalo, NY and another gunman killing 21 people (predominantly children) in a majority-Hispanic school in Uvalde, Texas. While we mourn the losses of these lives, we must be vigilant to the racist structures that created and continue to create these tragedies.
While many believe they have the right to defend themselves from a militarised state through the US Constitution’s Second Amendment, this actually invisibilises America’s dark history of policing Black bodies that helped shape the claim to arms as a “patriotic” right. We can go all the way back to Virginia in 1788 to learn that what white plantation owners were most concerned about was the government’s inability to quell slave rebellions, and thus required that states have their own militias to control them. Plantation owners were worried that the violence and atrocities they committed against Black people would cause slaves to desire retribution. Back then, we can at least see a clear connection between the horrors wreaked against this community, and how they in turn were used to frame Black people as inherently dangerous, rather than acknowledging the natural response to being so deeply oppressed and killed as a community.
However, this is not simply an issue of “gun control.” While anti-Black racism pervades countless institutions, there is little acknowledgment of the real violence this creates for Black people, let alone a system of accountability. And as we’ve written before, relying on the police to protect Black people from this violence is inherently contradictory. In the Texas shooting case, it was the actions of the police that may have actually led to this scale of atrocity. While the initial press release painted the police as heroes, new evidence reveals that Uvalde police rushed into the school to get their own children out, but left the gunman inside with other people’s children for over an hour. Police are not trained to save lives, rather as we discuss in the following infographic, they are an extension of racist laws and policies deeply embedded in our governments and institutions.
As Mariame Kaba wrote in 2020 after the George Floyd protests, the only step towards negating police violence is to tangibly reduce the number of officers and cut the police budget. While this may feel intimidating or even dangerous for those who are not regularly surveilled by police, it is actually up to our own communities and companies to lay the groundwork for accountability, mutual aid, and safety as a replacement for the ineffective and violent punitive system we currently operate under.