© Josh Sager – August 2014
Last year, I wrote an article titled “White Privilege and the 2nd Amendment,” where I described the racial disparities inherent to the perception of armed individuals. In short, I explain how racial bias and the perception of black males as criminal by many in American society creates a situation where armed black people are seen as dangerous while equally armed white people are simply seen as “patriotic supporters of the 2nd Amendment.”
Unfortunately, the police of Beaver Creek Ohio have given me a perfect example of this disparity, and the extreme consequences that can follow.
On the evening of August 5th, John Crawford—a 22 year old African American man—was killed by the Beaver Creek police department, in a Walmart, because he was holding an airsoft rifle that he was planning on buying from said store. Apparently, a currently-unnamed shopper saw Crawford holding the toy, got scared, and called the police. Once on scene, the police opened fire on Crawford before they had even ascertained that he wasn’t actually carrying a weapon. Crawford was executed by police who made a snap-judgment based around his skin color and the fact that they thought that he was armed.
The following quote is from LeeCee Johnston, Crawford’s girlfriend, who was on the phone with him at the time of the shooting:
“We was just talking. He said he was at the video games playing videos and he went over there by the toy section where the toy guns were. And the next thing I know, he said ‘It’s not real,’ and the police start shooting and they said ‘Get on the ground,’ but he was already on the ground because they had shot him,” she said, adding: “And I could hear him just crying and screaming. I feel like they shot him down like he was not even human.”
While it is absolutely irrelevant to the greater context of this situation, it also bears mention that Crawford had no violent record, history of gun crimes, or other run ins with the law that could have biased the police into such aggression.
The “Right” to Open Carry?
White gun fetishists and open carry protesters regularly flaunt their weapons in public, but are never summarily gunned down by police called to the scene by concerned citizens—they are approached respectfully and their “right” to carry weapons is respected. The reason why most pro-gun activists and protests are able to carry guns without eliciting reflexive violence from the police is…let’s face it…because they tend to be working class, middle aged, white Americans rather than black males in their 20s.
In effect, white Americans enjoy the radically expanded gun access that has come from right wing judicial activism (ex. the Heller decision by the Roberts Court) and legislation, while black people face the threat of summary execution if they hold a toy that looks like a gun in public.
Personally, I don’t blame anybody who calls the police when they see somebody carrying around an automatic rifle in public—we live in a world of mass-shootings and it is better to be safe than dead. That said, the disparity between the treatment of white and black gun-carriers is a very real constitutional issue. If the courts decide that this is a country where everybody has the “right” to walk around with assault weapons, the application of the law cannot allow one group to have that right while tolerating another group getting killed by police for the same actions.
Ideally, the police would balance the scales and find the middle ground between how they treat white Americans and how the treat black Americans, which they can then apply to everybody. All people who carry powerful weapons in public should be treated with the increased scrutiny that armed black people currently face, but the police should show the restraint that they currently accord armed white people (I.E. not executing them).
Silence from the Gun Nuts Exposes their Bias
In addition to the issue of police bias where weapons are involved, this situation has exposed the internal biases of the American gun fetishists. In theory, this is the perfect situation for the gun fetishists to rally around—a law-abiding American was gunned down by police for no reason other than carrying a weapon I public—but their silence has been frankly deafening. I have yet to see any rally around this shooting by the gun fetishists, and the only reason that I think of for this is the fact that the victim is black.
If the victim were a white, middle class gun owner, I have no doubt that the gun fetishists would be screaming about Constitutional violations and tyranny while puffing up their bloated persecution complexes. Gadsden flags would be raised, open carry hordes would mobilize, and the police would be lambasted in the right wing blogosphere.
The silence of the gun fetishists on this issue exposes their majority as simply white people who are terrified of the world (and most of the people in it) and need gun to feel safe. They only care about the gun rights of people who look like them, and their “constitutional” rhetoric is just that…rhetoric. At best, they could care less about some black guy getting shot for “exercising his rights,” while, at worst, they would shoot at him for “looking like a thug” (like Michael Dunn did in Florida) because he had a gun.
At the end of the day, we need increased gun control regulations that ensure that only responsible people can obtain guns. There are simply too many guns in the USA and too many crazy people have obtained guns for us to tolerate the status quo.
That said, until the day that we can get increased gun control, we must ensure that all Americans have equal rights and protections from getting gunned down by police simply for exercising their “rights.” All too often white people take their privilege for granted and assume that they have a right to carry weapons that goes beyond that of black Americans—they see armed white people as patriots while they fear armed black people in a way that often leads to violence.