We all enjoy feeling safe. That peace of mind allows us to feel in-control and free of worry. When we’re pulled out of that tranquil state and forced to face a grim reality, we want to refortify our walls of safety and control: build them stronger, higher, thicker. In terms of gun-related deaths in America, that means all citizens being able to protect themselves from unforeseen gun-toting attackers, right? But what if in that protection, more targets are created for a surprising (or unsurprising) force?
On November 22nd, 2014, 12 year-old Tamir Rice met his untimely death at the hands of two police officers, who claimed young Tamir brandished a gun at them. The gun in question was a toy that had never been waved, pointed, or directed at them, as shown by surveillance recording. In the recording, the officers arrive at the scene of a 9-1-1 call, exit their vehicle, and immediately open fire on the 6th grader.
Just four months before, on August 5th 2014, police officers arrived at the scene of a 9-1-1 call (an Ohio Wal-Mart) and unjustly escorted proud father John Crawford III to his death. Video surveillance shows John on a cellphone simply holding a BB gun when he’s met with a terrible fate.
These are just two instances in a long series of chilling events, all similar in context: Law enforcement needlessly killing black people due to perceived threats. In 2014 alone, more than 100 unarmed black men and women were killed by police officers, and almost all were due to perceived threats. Unfortunately, it doesn’t just stop at law enforcement. From the Dylan Roofs to the George Zimmermans, anti-black vigilantism is an equally terrifying threat to the entirety of America’s black populace.
As of 2014, around 19% of black households owns firearms, while black citizens are still twice as likely than white citizens to be at the barrel end of gun homicide. In an America where more than 50% of its citizens owns firearms, the rate of gun homicide against black people will undoubtedly rise. And, by our current precedent, media coverage of these encounters will most likely be anti-black smear campaigns, justifying the public execution of citizens exercising their lawful rights, and praising the “heroes cleaning the streets.”
There’s no winning move for Black America when it comes to lenient gun restrictions. They don’t just give me the power to protect myself, they also give people who hate me the power to kill me and anyone like me. In an America where more people have guns, if I don’t have one I’m certainly defenseless; and yet, a gun in my hand makes me more of a target than I ever was before.
Max Ehrenfreund and Zachary A. Goldfarb
Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2015/06/18/11-essential-facts-about-guns-and-mass-shootings-in-the-united-states/
BBC News “Why do US police keep killing unarmed black men?”
Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-32740523
Mapping Police Violence
Retrieved from http://mappingpoliceviolence.org/unarmed/
Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/07/15/the-demographics-and-politics-of-gun-owning-households/
Tamir Rice (left) and John Crawford III (right) courtesy of their respective families