I hope that you had a restful Columbus Day
CNN recently posted the editorial/exploratory news item "Does race shape Americans' passion for guns?" It is a good and very accessible piece about race and American gun culture. In some important ways Does race shape Americans' passion for guns? is atypical: it features some serious scholars with expertise about race and racial ideologies in America. The response to Does race shape Americans' passion for guns? was common and tedious: the white supremacists and ammosexuals polluted the comments section, forcing CNN to close it down.
[The irony of an essay about guns and race attracting both ammosexuals and white supremacists, as they bloviate and produce copious spittle while denying that racism and attitudes about gun ownership are related, is priceless.]
The corporate media is not interested in a rigorous process wherein the truth is revealed and power is challenged. Rather, in the United States the 4th Estate is an essential organ of the powerful, the rich, and the State. And because profit is secondary to truth-telling, the corporate media creates false narratives and frames that distort and misrepresent the facts and empirical data across a range of issues and matters of public policy.
In this model, complex issues are over-simplified, false equivalencies are legitimated, and rejected outliers of opinion are represented as reasonable and expert alternative points of view.
These narrative frames are applied across a range of public policy issues such as taxes, global warming, health care, and of course the most noxious and oft told lie that "both sides are responsible" when government dysfunction in the Age of Obama is discussed by the corporate media.
Despite its relative merits, CNN's Does race shape Americans' passion for guns? also reflects the above phenomenon by generating a question as opposed to confirming a statement of historical and contemporary fact.
The relationship between guns and race is not a matter of "does"; rather, it is a matter of "yes" and "how".
The color line is central to America's history with, and obsession for, guns.
America was founded as a white supremacist herrenvolk democracy and settler society. White supremacy is in the DNA and sinews of the Founding and the Constitution. America, spawned with the twin birth defects of genocide against First Nations peoples and the enslavement of millions of black people, despite its progress on matters related to the color line, is still a society where white privilege and white racial group identity profoundly over-determine life chances.
The United States is a paradox on matters of race: it is a multicultural democracy with a "diverse" popular culture that remains oriented around both maintaining and furthering white supremacy.
In all, if America is a country where race colors almost every aspect of social and political life, how can it not touch the soul of a nation in which guns are part of its beating heart?
The answer is clear. It cannot.
In a limited about of space, and writing for a public audience, that may or may not have any expertise on a given topic, is not easy. Moreover, John Blake, the author of Does race shape Americans' passion for guns?, may not have any specific content knowledge about guns, race, and public policy. Thus, Blake is beholden to a database of "experts", as well as those others to which the members of that social network suggest he speak. This results in a mix of very smart folks (Gallagher) being cited in the same essay with frauds (Lott).
The reader is given some gems of knowledge mixed in with glowing poison pebbles that beckon to the disinformed and those others whose standing prior is to reject the empirical realities of how guns and race are intimates in America.
Does race shape Americans' passion for guns? could have been much improved, as the framing of the question is designed to distract and distort by creating false equivalencies and controversies about the standing facts where there are little to none.
Consider the following.
1. Where is Richard Slotkin? He is one of the country's foremost experts on guns and American gun culture. I was lucky enough to speak with him on the podcast series for We Are Respectable Negroes. His work offers a solid answer that "yes" race and racial attitudes are central to America's history with guns.
2. John Blake quotes John Lott Jr.. His book More Guns Less Crime, while lauded and praised by open carry fetishists and the Gun Right, has been thoroughly eviscerated for its use of fraudulent and inaccurate statistics. Does race shape Americans' passion for guns? uses discredited information in order to give "equal time" to unfounded and disproved claims.
3. The relationship between race and America's "passion" for guns is not a mystery. There is social science research on white Americans' attitudes about race, crime, and gun policy. Some of this work is very recent and clearly demonstrates that white racial attitudes (i.e. animus and resentment towards blacks; symbolic racism) are related to views about guns and concealed carry laws.
On occasion, a whee bit of truth sneaks out through the narrow confines of the approved discourse as authored and furthered by the American corporate news media. Does race shape Americans' passion for guns? is one of those rare moments.
Unfortunately, while opening with a strong lede about white racial entitlement and how white folks are free to walk around in public with guns (black and brown folks doing the same thing would be shot dead by the police and white vigilantes), John Blake closes with whimpering pandering to white racial paranoiacs and how obvious racial bias against black and brown Americans is just a difference of opinion between otherwise "well-meaning" individuals.
There Blake wrote:
Those protests continue, and each week seems to bring a new viral video that raises questions about guns and race.
There's footage of an unarmed young black man shot to death by a white police officer in an Ohio Walmart while swinging a toy rifle at his side and talking on a cell phone. And there's the dash cam recording of a black man being shot by a white South Carolina trooper as he reached for his license during a traffic stop.
Did any of those shootings have anything to do with race?
It depends on who you ask.
When so many Americans disagree about the links between gun and race, well-meaning people look at the same videos and draw far different conclusions.
That can only mean more controversial shootings, impassioned defenses of the Second Amendment and angry charges of racism.
There may be a lot more people asking "what if" in America's future.Blake is walking a tightrope in Does race shape Americans' passion for guns?--choosing to make a safe play at the end of the piece.
Alas, kumbaya hand holding is always a temptation (and perhaps a necessity) for those who work the "racism beat" in the corporate news media machine.
Folks must eat and stay employed. Parrhesia is dangerous and comes with consequences that few are willing to accept or court.