John Crawford III was in a Walmart, where he had picked up a BB gun off of a shelf, apparently intent on purchasing it. Someone called the police, who shot him on sight, in 2014.
The guy in this video showed up, open carrying, after Walmart issued public statements asking people not to, because one of their stores was the site of a mass casualty hate crime.
A day after that mass casualty hate crime, Dmitriy Andreychenkos showed up in tactical gear, with a weapon nearly identical to the one used in the mass casualty attack was arrested outside another Walmart. He was trying to find out whether Walmart would still support his 2A rights.
John Crawford was a Black man. Whoever reported him was ignorant of how much more likely it was John would be killed because he was Black. The most cynical supposition would be to believe whoever made that phone call did understand how much danger they were putting him in. 5 years ago, and who even knows how many mass shooting past, police didn’t give John Crawford anywhere near the respect and consideration both the guy in the video making the rounds today or to Dmitriy Andreychenkos.
Two weeks ago, I wrote about the differences in the way Marcus David-Peters and Matthew Bernard were treated by police. Marcus was shot dead within 18 seconds of encountering police. Matthew Bernard, spent a few minutes running around, after attempting to assault an officer, then attempting to strangle a bystander, before running directly at a police K-9 unit parked in front of his home, where he'd left his mother dead in the driveway, after murdering the rest of the family who was present, sparking the manhunt which produced the Keystone cops video which became a viral sensation. The details of the two stories make it impossible to still argue police have no racial bias.
Sadly, another story this week is also highlighting the difference in the way the criminal punishment system treats people of color and white people, especially when the white people in question also have money and status. Felicity Huffman engaged in what amounts to a criminal conspiracy to see that her daughter would get into the college of their choice. It involved bribes, falsified documents and photos, the whole kit and caboodle. She's been sentenced to 14 days in prison.
The controversy isn't over how long Huffman was sentenced, but how long a number of other women, who happen to be woman of color, were sentenced to years in prison for enrolling their children in school districts near their own, but which are understood to be better schools than their home districts. Tanya Mcdowell, homeless at the time, enrolled her child in an elementary school, which wasn't her "home district." How this is figured despite her homelessness is... I can't even dignify that with bothering to research an explanation. It's too absurd. Tanya was eventually sentenced to five years in prison.
Not convinced, yet? Here's a story on Kelley Williams-Bolar. Williams-Bolar had kept faith in her local public school despite crumbling infrastructure, mold and other issues plaguing schools in poor communities throughout the country. When her two daughters began to be bullied, she decided it was time to move them to the district her father lived in, and where she and the girls spent half of their week to accommodate her schedule as a single mother, and have much needed, trustworthy child care. The story is shocking, heart breaking and maddening from there. It's also yet more evidence of how white privilege works in criminal punishment and in how we see things like the worth of education for children, depending on whether they are perceived to be Black or white. Another 5 years sentence.
The differences in the stories of John Crawford and the two white men who were peacefully and respectfully engaged by authorities, as well as the stories of Kelly Williams-Bolar and Tanya Mcdowell receiving extended prison sentences when a wealthy white woman was sentenced to 14 days is the story of the overlapping of unequal access to social and economic resources being restricted and enforced by way of the criminal punishment system. This is the overwhelming reality of white privilege. Threats and risks foisted on people of color, consequences which can in no way be considered equal, and all of it about continuing to reinforce boundaries to social and economic resources. White people may experience boundaries to access, but none of them are strictly because we are white. These boundaries are very real and as John Crawford is an unfortunate example of, they can be deadly for Black people and other people of color in the US. Police unleashed 41 shots at Amadou Diallo, because he had his wallet in his hand.
Kalief Browder was accused of stealing a backpack. His family couldn't afford the bail set for him, and Kalief refused to take a plea deal which involved him admitting he was guilty. He maintained he was innocent from the first day. Put into Riker's Island, a notoriously brutal jail, Kalief spent almost two years in solitary confinement, during which he attempted suicide several times. His youth and his size made him a target while in jail, and defending himself kept landing him in solitary for longer periods. Eventually, the charges against Kalief were dropped due to lack of evidence. After his release, Kalief struggled with mental health issues related to long term solitary confinement. He ended up committing suicide. A backpack. Felicity Huffman participated in a case of federal fraud.
What we're talking about are rights and privileges we have decided are available under the Constitution. In the case of whether or not people of color have access to the same use of the 2nd Amendment, it is very, very clear, they do not. We can even go back to the case of Philando Castille, who had a legal concealed carry permit, attempted to follow conflicting instructions given by a cop, and was shot as a result. Let's also not forget the nations premiere 2nd Amendment lobbying arm and propaganda machine, had exactly dick to say about the deaths of John Crawford and Philando Castille.
As education is concerned, willful ignorance is the only thing that can allow us to see something like coincidence in the cases of Kelly Williams-Bolar and Tanya Mcdowell in comparison to Felicity Huffman. One of the things that was singular to the practice of chattel slavery was the denial of education. A slave couldn't be taught to read, because when they were taught to read, the planned insurrection, and long before this law was established, white people had been privileged out of both indentured servitude and slavery. We'd legally established those things as firsts, one of them being slavery as a racial caste system, and the second as the denial of education. Prior forms of slavery found slaves that could read of greater value. They also didn't come quite near the depth of depravity and brutality of chattel slavery in the US.
Integration in the school systems throughout the south was fought by every possible means, into the '80's. That's thirty years after the Supreme Court ruled it was un-Constitutional, and therefore illegal. Up in the north, since they'd never codified directly into law as far as education was concerned, they weren't forced to integrate, and to this day have the the most segregated schools in the nation.
Right here, in Richmond, where I sit as I write this, we've recently had quite the hullaballoo about the proposal of the school board to merge a number of schools. Some of them, previously under performing, and serving either a majority or nearly half a student body who are Black and come from low income neighborhoods. This is one of those instances where history isn't just rhyming, it is damn near repeating itself.
Let's be candid and direct here. Going back to 9/11, there began a re-affirmation of the open supremacy of whiteness. Whiteness being superior to "Muslims" was inherent in more of our politics than not. When Barack Obama was elected, the combination of Islamophobia and anti-Black racism was brought together, again affirming the primacy of whiteness. Everyone today likes to pine for the days of "reasonable Republicans," but from 9/11 through today, they've been willing to play this game. They didn't even both attempting to appear moderate or reasonable. For 8 years, what we're now recalling as the "reasonable" and the "mainstream" right of the Republican Party, mounted a full on racially ideologically war against allowing Barack Obama to accomplish anything he may have wanted to. Mitch McConnell made it clear on day one. Seven years later, he'd rewrite the rules of judicial appointments to deny a confirmation hearing for Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.
At the same time, existing hate groups around the country were seeing explosions in membership and inquiries. On top of that, new hate groups were popping up like weeds. The websites for the nations white supremacist and other hate groups experienced the best day in their history on November 5, 2008, the day after Obama's election. Whether we want to believe it or not, Republican politicians, a whole slew of conservative media and the new generation of internet activists have helped to solidify white supremacy as a valid political and social identity in 2019, while simultaneously painting themselves as the victims of cultural exile.
We should all be worried about the white guy who the police do end up shooting because he decides to test the resolve of some local store. As terrible as it is any time people get killed, it's not just about that. It's about the fact that when it does happen, and let's not kid ourselves, so long as there is still some appetite for them to keep testing the resolve of any business which publicly asks people not to open carry, it's going to happen at some point. It's inevitable. Consider for a second what is going to happen when a white "gun rights activist" is shot by police in a manner similar to that of John Crawford. The far right will take it as and promote is as the proof that they're on the way to being treated the way the United States has treated racial minorities and religious minorities since our inception.
Despite the obviousness of "People are terrified, and just looking at you doesn't mean they can tell if you're being a dick or if you're the next mass shooter," the various factions of the far right will take an incidence of police shooting an open carry advocate as a sign their worst fears about the Deep State or a Jewish conspiracy and squeeze every drop of terror out of them they can. The violence surrounding school desegregation was bad, and that was perceived as Black people being given the same rights as whites. This will be perceived as whites being knocked down to the same level as Black people and Muslims, which for them, is much worse, and the fear they've been stoking since 9/12/2001.
We can't look to the political class for much help. The Republican Party is fully engaged in the war to Make America White Again. The Democratic Party has some elected officials who are ready and willing to try to take some decisive action, but they're constantly hampered by a leadership which is still focused on attempting to convert the Republican Party intellectuals, despite twenty straight years of those so called intellectuals snuggling right up to whatever figurehead they need to in order to keep moving toward authoritarian rule. GW Bush was a figurehead, and a useful idiot, while Dick Cheney was a ghoul, and the Republican Party never thought twice. They've spent the last few years now, falling right in line behind The Tangerine Candidate, despite a jaw dropping level of obvious inability, open bigotry, arrogant misogyny and being an example of just how much more narcissistic politics can get.
New gun control measures aren't going to stop this. There are already over 300 million guns in the country. This is in no way to say that gun control measures aren't worth it, they are. It is to be realistic about what efficacy new regulation will have. Beto O'Rourke's recent proposal to create a mandatory buy back program is a genuinely good way to cut down on the number of guns in circulation right now, no doubt. It was immediately clear how that's going to be received though, when another Texas elected made it clear that any measure which could be perceived as confiscation will be met with violence.
We're reaching yet another issue where the social and political culture have served to prevent the majority of white people in the US from understanding how much race has always effected our politics as a whole, and in each issue. 2nd Amendment discussions have been long fought on the grounds of being rights, outlined specifically in the Constitution. Education is also a supposed to be a guaranteed right under the Constitution. Never have people of color been given equal access to these things. Never have people of color been able to expect equal justice for breaking any laws or norms related to these things.
The struggle that the United States is facing right now is at base about being absolutely unable to come to terms with the fact that where "rights" are concerned, when we agree they are conferred to us by government, we're also agreeing to government's ability to rescind or be gatekeepers of them. For white America, the experience has long been a gate to which the key was skin color, so being in majority white worlds, they've never had to consider the gates have locks. A good portion of white America is waking up to the fact that a security system based on skin color is not only unjust, but absolutely useless. Black folks aren't even in the running where mass shootings of random victims in public are concerned right now. It's not even a contest. It's a comically lopsided graph when you attempt to plot it.
What we can hope, is that all of this now being so much in the public eye, the myth of the Black/Brown Menace is being put to rest. It is, after all, this deeply ingrained set of beliefs about the inherent danger of Black/Brown skin which drives these responses to both Black men and firearms, but also Black children in white schools. That myth isn't going to die or be crushed without highlighting the reality that our society has always and is today producing the kinds of results found in the comparisons above.
White people are going to have to risk some level of sacrifice to change this reality. Not critique. Not criticize. Sacrifice.
Without it, this country is a ticking time bomb, and when it goes off, whiteness will be no protection from the violence of patriarchal white supremacy or the blowback.