Tag Archives: gun control

suspicion

Someone called the police on my stepmother when we were shopping at Smart & Final when I was a kid. She was Mexican and we were white and even though there was no signs of distress, it looked “suspicious.” My father said we should be grateful that people are watching, that others care enough to call. I didn’t feel grateful. Another time, a very large man in Kmart screamed in my stepmother’s face that she should go back to Japan, after a dispute over line order. When we moved from California to Ohio for a brief time, where there didn’t seem to be any other races besides black and white (on separate sides of town, in the 1980s), people openly stared, asked crazy questions. “Do you eat hot tamales for breakfast?” No, but I did eat chorizo sandwiches for lunch. The unfamiliar smell made other kids shift away.

There are a range of reactions to the Zimmerman verdict. Many of my Facebook friends are torn up. Others insist race had nothing to do with it, that guns are still good, that it’s unfortunate, but these things just happen. One implied that the media cares more about dead black people than dead white people.

Earlier this year, we had a rash of break-ins in my suburban neighborhood. No one took anything from us because we don’t have anything too enticing. But the neighbors were very upset. Our next door neighbor, who is nice–with her smile and her curly brown hair and her garden clogs–rushed over to me as we were getting out of the car. She told me she had seen a suspicious man outside of our house. This suspicious man was my darker-skinned, half-Jewish, half-Mexican brother-in-law, who pulled up in a Prius and wore running clothes and a CamelBak. He was meeting me to go on a run. What do you think made my neighbor suspicious? The pouch full of water strapped to his back? Or the extreme wicking nature of his technical shirt?

My neighbor spoke to me about the rash of crime in front of my anxious son, and he couldn’t sleep for a few nights after.

Eight-year-olds aren’t the only ones. We convince ourselves to be scared, even in our gated communities, our stucco tract homes. We buy guns and we practice. We imagine we are heroes in our own movies, that everything we are suspicious of is out to get us. We are stupid, we are isolated from one another. We don’t know what we are really talking about. But people still die, all of the time, as a result.

Zimmerman says he needs his gun now “more than ever.”

Stand your ground laws say you can follow a person, a teenager, into the darkness and terrorize him and kill him and get away with it.

My black friends have black children, black boys, who they know will grow up to be black men who will be in danger because someone will always be suspicious of the color of their skin. And that someone might have a gun. He might imagine himself to be some arbiter of justice and safety, as Zimmerman did. And he might be wrong, as Zimmerman was, but it wouldn’t matter. My sister, too, has a black son. This is my nephew Cameron:

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Let’s be honest. We have a race problem in this country. And we have a gun problem, too. And there are lives at stake. Stand your ground laws and the verdict in this case and all of our own suspicions, legitimate or not, guarantee this sort of thing will happen again.

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NRA: Add us to your Enemies List

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Were you disappointed you didn’t find your name on the NRA’s recently published Enemies List? I was, too. Sign the petition I started to get your name added!

http://www.change.org/petitions/nra-add-us-to-your-enemies-list#

Here’s the text of the petition:

When the NRA published its recent Enemies List, they overlooked millions of Americans. Beyonce, the YWCA, the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, John McEnroe, and many other Americans were included, but we were left out. We ask that the NRA correct this egregious error. We do not like you. We think your organization is destructive. We think your spokesperson is illogical at best, unstable at worst. We believe there is a middle ground between taking away all Americans’ guns and no regulation whatsoever. Please add us to the List.

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towards understanding

I listen to the radio in the car on the way to work, and there are tears streaming down my face. I call my husband and he is also crying. I see my kids and I hug them until they ask me to stop. I lie in bed and I close my eyes and I try not to think of what it must have been like in one of those classrooms. My imagination keeps wandering there and I can’t sleep. I want to climb into my children’s beds and curl my body around them.

I do not know the answer to any of this, obviously, and anyone who says they do is lying. It is a complex problem, and the answer is therefore complex. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think about it and stumble towards some kind of understanding.

Yes, I happen to think part of the solution might be to more strictly regulate guns. But as a person who has taught hundreds of adults from all sorts of backgrounds for the past seven years, I can tell you this. There are a lot of people in this world who are on the verge, who are traumatized and battered and, yes, sometimes mentally ill, who do not have access to the resources they need. I know, because many of them are my students.

Three years ago, a student I was mentoring through a college program sent me a video of a realistic animation of David decapitating Goliath. He told me that he was David, that I was Goliath. He taped a broken heart to my office door. He sent me long, complicated rants about how I didn’t give him enough attention, about how he knows my mother loved me, about my children, about my husband. He was eventually removed from the campus, but what, really, is stopping him from returning? Nothing.

This student was clearly mentally ill. He shook when he talked to me. He couldn’t make eye contact. He had tried to get help, but his parents were not supportive, and he was constantly put on waiting lists, told to come back later, given phone numbers, referred and referred and referred away.

At the college where my husband teaches, a student made a threat and, fortunately, they arrested him at his home with a bag full of guns before he could act on it. Every semester, I have a student who I could see snapping. How many other instructors or health care professionals or other people who work closely with a variety of people can say the same? I’ll bet nearly all of them. Sometimes, they come to me and ask me for help, and I do the only thing I know to do: refer them to a place that I know doesn’t have enough resources. I look over my shoulder when I walk to my car.

Even in the most ideal situation, you can’t force a person to get help. And no matter how much we regulate guns, a really intent person can likely get his or her hands on one. There’s a percentage of this we can’t, no matter what, control. But given that we are the industrialized nation with the highest rate of gun violence (coupled with the highest rate of mental health problems), given the fact that we have a disturbing history of mass shootings, I think we need to take a good, hard look at ourselves.

Bringing God into classrooms isn’t going to actually help or stop anyone who is on the verge, Mike Huckabee, though it does allow you to conveniently avoid actually addressing the problem in any effective way. Condemning the man as an Autistic Loner and deeming him “other” isn’t going to stop this, either.

The odds that this would happen in our community are still extraordinarily low, but, if we are honest, we will admit that the problem is all around us, that it is complex, that we need to search for understanding, and, yes, address it. Or we can just, you know, keep watching Honey Boo Boo just as soon as regularly scheduled programming resumes.

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