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Rejecting America’s historical culture of violence

Melvin B. Miller
Rejecting America’s historical culture of violence
“I hope this means the cops will stop shooting at people like us.”

Gun violence is as American as apple pie. Urban citizens are apprehensive about safety in large cities. As expected, racist Republicans are quick to insist that the shootings are a consequence of large Black populations in major cities. By generating white fear, they hope to diminish the impact of the Black vote, which is usually predominantly Democratic.

Only recently have whites come to realize that a great source of firearm death is the police. According to the tally by the Washington Post, the police shot to death 1,055 unarmed people in 2021. Blacks were twice as likely as whites to be shot to death by the police. While only 13% of the nation’s population is Black, 27% of those killed by the police last year were Black.

The most common reaction to this disparity is that the victims probably deserved what they got. This response skirts the fundamental issue of why the police always have to carry firearms. The British police culture is quite different. The police do not carry arms unless the situation demands it. As a consequence, police rarely fire their guns, and in 2016, only one person was killed by the police in Wales and England.

It is interesting to note that in England, the presence of a substantial Black population does not create a special violent environment. In West London, 48% of the population is Black and other minorities, and there is no firearms violence.

Clearly, the United States has cultivated elements of a culture that supports armed violence. One issue is tolerance for deadly assaults against Native Americans and Blacks who failed to comply with the lower social status required of them. In fact, crime was not considered to be a significant social issue as long as Blacks were the victims of violence.

In 1921, whites decimated the Black neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, because the people refused to hand over a young Black man to be lynched for alleged sexual harassment of a white girl. The Blacks insisted that he should be prosecuted according to the law. In 1955, Emmett Till, a young boy from Chicago who was visiting relatives in Mississippi, was brutally assassinated for looking at a white woman. And in Tuskegee, researchers established that whites had lynched 3,446 Blacks, mostly in the South, from 1882–1968.

Whites are induced by Republicans to fear violence. Perhaps they fear retribution from Blacks because of their past atrocities against Blacks. The nonviolent ministry of Martin Luther King Jr. has indicated that a general violent reaction is unlikely, but Minister Louis Farrakhan’s leadership among Black men has been most responsible for keeping the peace.

The mass media have wrongfully asserted over the years that the Nation of Islam is the source of violence. They come to that erroneous conclusion because of the assertiveness of Farrakhan’s speeches in opposition to the denial of the rights and equality of Blacks. But it is important to note that Farrakhan has a profound respect for human life. In all the years of his leadership, no one has been physically harmed at his direction.

The best way for fearful Republicans to secure their safety is to spread love and equality to others. Be assured that people will get the message and they will be able to walk unharmed among those thought to be hostile.