America’s foundation of white supremacy and its deeply-seeded culture of firearms have, since its inception, resulted in perpetual injustice for people of color.
White supremacy is a nationalistic philosophy in which “race” is defined in relatively narrow binary terms of “white” versus racialized others. The legacy of white supremacy benefits not only those who fully embrace it, but also those who accept their unearned privileges based solely on their socially-constructed racial designation.
Europeans established their domination of the Americas based on a program of exploitation, violence, kidnapping, land theft, and genocide against indigenous populations. For example, the Puritans left England for America to practice their form of Protestant Christianity.
They believed they were divinely chosen to form “a biblical commonwealth” with no separation between religion and government. They tolerated no other faiths or interpretations of divine precepts. In fact, they murdered and expelled Quakers, Catholics, and others.
The “American” colonies followed European perceptions of “race.” A 1705 Virginia statute, the “Act Concerning Servants and Slaves,” read:
[N]o negroes, mulattos or Indians, Jew, Moor, Mahometan [Muslims], or other infidel, or such as are declared slaves by this act, shall, notwithstanding, purchase any christian (sic) white servant….
In 1790, the newly constituted United States Congress passed the Naturalization Act, which excluded all nonwhites from citizenship, including Asians, enslaved Africans, and Native Americans, the later whom they defined in oxymoronic terms as “domestic foreigners,” even though they had inhabited this land for thousands of years.
Congress did not grant most remaining Native Americans citizenship until 1924 with the passage of the Indian Citizenship Act, though Asians continued to be denied naturalized citizenship status.
An example of “cultural genocide” can be seen in the case of white Christians dominating over indigenous peoples, who they saw as “godless heathens” and “devil worshipers.”
White Christians attempted to destroy indigenous peoples cultures through many means: confiscation of land, forced relocation, undermining of their languages, cultures, and identities, forced conversion to Christianity, and the establishment of Christian day schools and off-reservation boarding schools far away from their people.
Throughout U.S. history, rather than characterizing refugees and refugee issues in humanitarian terms, many conservative and nationalist activists use narratives representing refugees as invading hoards, as barbarians at the gates who, if allowed to enter, will destroy the glorious civilization we have established among the “lesser” nations of the Earth.
On a more basic and personal level, the rhetoric of invasion taps into psychological fears, or more accurately, terrors of infection: our country, our workplaces, and more basically, our private places in which “aliens” forcefully penetrate our bodies, into our orifices, and down to the smallest cellular level.
Modern day white supremacists and neo-Nazis believe that only white Anglo-Saxon Protestant heterosexuals have been granted a soul by God. Everyone else they refer to as “mud people,” those without a soul and without meaning, value, or worth.
As hundreds of white nationalists lined the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, 2017 to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Lee Park, some waved Confederate and Nazi flags, brandished shields, and marched with burning torches. They shouted racist and anti-Semitic slurs repeating “JEWS WILL NOT REPLACE US!” At one point, they loudly chanted in unison: “FUCK YOU FA***TS!”
What these white, mostly male, presumably heterosexual protesters have in common is a belief in a “white ethno-state,” according to Southern Poverty Law Center Research analyst Keegan Hankes. He referred to the so-called “alt-right” or far-right movement as a “grab bag of right-wing ideologies.”
“They believe that white people are being systematically replaced and that inheritance to their homeland is being taken away from them,” Hankes told NBC News. “There’s this belief that basically white people are being replaced faster than they can reproduce.”
The United States leads all other industrialized nations in the rate of police killings per capita. The United States in 2018, for example, killed 1,348 people setting a rate 12 people per 100,000 arrests. This compares to the rate of five or a total of 21 deaths in Australia, and the rate of two or a total 13 deaths in the United Kingdom.
Police are four times more likely to use force on black people (273 per 100,000 arrests) compared to white people (76 per 100,000 arrests).
The watchdog group Mapping Police Violence identified 1,099 police killings in 2019. It found that black people are three times more likely to be killed by police officers than white people while 1.3 times less likely to be armed than white people. Between 2016 through 2019, 99% of killings by police resulted in no criminal charges.
While approximately 4.3% of the world’s population resides in the United States, that country incarcerates approximately 25% of the world’s total prison population with a rate of 655 per 100,000 residents. In comparison, per 100,000 residents, the United Kingdom imprisons 140, Canada 114, France 100, Italy 98, Germany 75, and Japan 41.
While black people constitute 12 to 14% of the U.S. population, fully 33% of the total incarcerated population in that country are black, while in the U.K. Three percent of the population is black with 12% of those incarcerated, and Canada whose black population is 4% with black people representing 9% of those overall incarcerated.
Though Latinx represent 16% of the adult population in the U.S., they accounted for 23% of inmates in 2017.
A primary reason why the United States suffers from one of the world’s highest rates of police shootings is because the United States has one of the highest rates of private firearms ownership in the world.
The number of people killed by firearms in 2017 extended to its highest level since 1968 with 39,773 deaths, of which 23,854 were by suicide and 14,542 were homicides. The rate of firearm deaths per 100,000 people increased from 10.3 per 100,000 in 1999 to 12 per 100,000 in 2017, with an average 109 people dying every day. Between 1968 and 2011 alone, approximately 1.4 million people died from guns in the United States.
The United States leads all other countries in the rate of private gun ownership with 120.5 of civilian guns per 100 people.
“Mass shootings at predominantly white schools draw the most attention from journalists and lawmakers, but The Post has found that children of color are far more likely to experience campus gun violence — nearly twice as much for Hispanic students and three times for black students,” a March 23, 2018 article in the Washington Post read.
White supremacy and systemic racism, the climate and promotion of violence and mass incarceration, and the culture of firearms continue to conspire in denying justice under the law to people of color in the United States.
Maybe with the recent brutal high profile murders by police officers of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Rayshard Brooks, the United States and its people have reached an inflection point to usher in real, deep, and lasting systemic change between law enforcement agencies and the communities they are meant to serve, changing police from warriors over the people into guardians of peace, safety, and equality for all.