‘Gun rights’ as white supremacism

Relative to California, where I lived for over fifty years, Pennsylvania is weird about guns. Really weird.

I’m not just talking about your garden variety hunting rifles, handguns, or even machine guns. That would be like the Lawrence County state representative’s bill to legalize concealed carry without a permit.[1]

Or even that bumper sticker that reads, “If you can’t stand behind our soldiers, for God’s sake, stand in front of them.”[2] Or the private fireworks detonations that go on for weeks at at time around July 4th.

Especially around Mon Valley, I see heavy artillery on display almost everywhere I go. Pieces are parked all over the place, typically in town squares or the portals to communities. The Southside Cemetery on Brownsville Road, in Carrick or close to it, has one parked pointing—I guess they would say “standing guard”—over the burial plots. Rest in peace, mother fuckers.

A few days ago I had a young Black man in my back seat complaining about Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto who, he alleged, had spoken about the mass shooting, by a white supremacist, at the Tree of Life Synagogue[3] but had remained silent about the ongoing violence in Black neighborhoods.

I remember one weekend morning when it seemed like everyone in my back seat was talking on their phones about shootings that had transpired the night before. There were at least two such shootings that night. One had injured her ankle fleeing a scene.

And as I drive around Pittsburgh, I see no shortage of “Blue Lives Matter” flags, U.S. flags but in black and white, with one stripe in blue (if you don’t know better, it might look purple). These seek to assert an equivalence, that is, “all lives matter,” between “blue” and Black lives when, in fact, it is all too often the blue (police) shooting at the Black. The Black Lives Matter movement is rather about the absence of such an equivalence, the devaluing of Black lives in favor of police claims of “fearing for their lives.”

Twitter is ablaze this morning about yet more white supremacist shootings.

I honestly do not see how the assertion of “second amendment rights”[4] cannot now be an assertion of white supremacism.

Too many people on the wrong side of the hierarchically invidious monism of White (as in Supremacist, therefore here capitalized[5]) versus everyone else are getting shot. Too many are getting killed. The assertion of gun rights values one’s own life, too often a White Supremacist life, over others, and in this context, it cannot be said to be in self-defense, but is rather an offense against those ‘other’ lives.

Mon Valley includes a lot of what very much appear to have been redlined neighborhoods. They seem to me to be predominantly Black. I can’t help but suspect those artillery pieces are a message—and not a friendly one—to the current residents.

  1. [1]Jon Delano, “Lawrence Co. Lawmaker Wants To Abolish Concealed Carry Gun Permits,” KDKA, May 7, 2019, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2019/05/07/aaron-bernstine-abolish-pennsylvania-concealed-carry-law/
  2. [2]David Benfell, “An invitation to violence,” Not Housebroken, June 8, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/06/08/an-invitation-to-violence/
  3. [3]Campbell Robertson, Christopher Mele, and Sabrina Tavernise, “11 Killed in Synagogue Massacre; Suspect Charged With 29 Counts,” New York Times, October 27, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/27/us/active-shooter-pittsburgh-synagogue-shooting.html
  4. [4]See U.S. Const. art. I § 8 for an interpretation of ‘militia’ that sounds a lot more like the National Guard than it does the Oxford Dictionary of English, 3rd ed., s.v. “militia” definition that includes for the U.S., “all able bodied civilians eligible by law for military service.”
  5. [5]see Elizabeth Kamarck Minnich, Transforming Knowledge, 2nd ed. (Philadelphia: Temple University, 2005).

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